The Goan Observer caught up with DR AMIT DIAS from the GMC’s Department of Preventive & Social Medicine to understand the science behind laughter and why laughter is the best medicine. Incidentally, May 1 is also observed internationally as World Laughter Day…
FUNNY or not so funny, I found myself reinventing the Mind Body Heart and Soul section of the Goan Observer and caught up with Dr. Amit Dias from the department of Preventive and Social Medicine at Goa Medical College to understand the science behind laughter and why is Laughter called the best Medicine. Incidentally, the first day of the month of May is observed as World Laughter Day!!
GOAN OBSERVER: Let us start by getting straight to the point. Is laughter the best medicine? Or is the phrase — just laughing matter?
DR AMIT DIAS: Yes, indeed, laughter is the best adjuvant medicine we have. Moreover, everyone can have it as it’s free. There are multiple benefits of laughter besides making us happy and increasing overall wellbeing. It helps in the release of endorphins by the brain — which are natural pain relievers, they stimulate the T-cells in the body which help improve immunity, they stimulate the intake of oxygen in the air, stimulate lungs, heart and muscles. Laughing is a good natural exercise for the abdominal muscles! It’s a great stress buster, it helps deal with depression, anxiety, it sooths tension, it helps you relax, it helps in the control of your blood pressure, It increases your personal satisfaction, and improves your mood. All that. It helps in developing your personality, makes you feel good and makes others feel good about you. We change physiologically as well as psychologically when we laugh. There are multiple beneficial effects of laughter on the mind, body, heart and soul, and the art and science of delivering laughter medicine to people is also developing. Laughter clubs and Laughter yoga are examples of such groups which promote laughter. Laughing together improves relationships — in your family and among your friends. Do not wait for a reason to laugh… you need to laugh because it’s good for you.
Q: Can we die of laughter?
Dr Amit: This is probably a trick question but an interesting one. We often use this description “I almost died of laughter!” When we have a rollicking good laugh. What people mean is that they laughed to their heart’s content. And are not referring to anything life- threatening like death! However, since you asked, I must add that in very rare situations, just like other medicine, too much of anything can cause harm. In rare situations, laughter, just like a violent cough, may lead to a rupture of an aneurism in the brain. It can trigger an asthma attack, can cause syncope — a temporary loss of consciousness or fainting, due to decreased blood flow to the brain. While death from laughing is possible, it is very unlikely and in general laughter is the best medicine. There is a condition called Gelastic seizures, usually due to a tumour in the hypothalamus in the brain…where the person presents with uncontrollable laughing or giggling while awake or asleep. However, this is very, very rare and the overwhelming evidence is that laughter is good for you, unless you have diarrhoea!!
GO: You have been associated with people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Do you feel laughter has a role to play in dementia care?
Dr Amit: Yes, I am convinced that laughter is a powerful medicine in the prevention and management of people with dementia as well. Always remember that we need to laugh with the person and not at the person. Laughter improves oxygenation, circulation, decreases stress. It’s useful both for the person with dementia as well as the caregiver. Laughing together also improves bonding, which is a priceless gift in dementia care. There is a study that was done in nursing home residents in Australia, who participated in a two week programme that involved clowning, music and mime and it was found to reduce both physical and verbal aggressive behaviour. This effect lasted for 14 weeks beyond the “humour therapy.” The study concluded that though it did not affect their mood or quality of life, there was a significant drop in agitation which was at par with what could be expected, following the use of antipsychotics. One needs to know in which situation and on whom it can be used. This is true, it is not funny. So why are you laughing?
GO: Doctor, sorry, I am starting my laughter medicine as advised by you.… but now you can have the last laugh. What is your message to our readers?
Dr Amit: Thanks, I sometimes come across patients, who tell me “Doctor I have forgotten how to laugh!” It is time for us to introspect and ask ourselves, When was the last time you had a hearty laugh? Have you forgotten to laugh? Why is it that you don’t laugh? Now that you know you don’t need a reason! Just go ahead and give yourself a well-deserved laughter therapy. The first Sunday of the month of May is observed as World Laughter Day and serves as a reminder to promote laughter in everyone’s life. Studies A WORLD LAUGHTER DAY SPECIAL The Goan Observer caught up with DR AMIT DIAS from the GMC’s Department of Preventive & Social Medicine to understand the science behind laughter and why laughter is the best medicine. Incidentally, May 1 is also observed internationally as World Laughter Day… have shown that couples who laugh together stay together. A good sense of humour makes a person more attractive. Humour is also a sign of your intelligence. Do make laughter part of your lives, and develop your sense of humour. Laughter is also infectious in the better sense of the word. So let a pandemic of laughter spread and wipe away the sorrows brought in by COVID-19. Keep laughing!! As Charlie Chaplin said a day without laughter is a day wasted. Start by laughing and making someone laugh and share your experience with the Goan Observer.