Teach Children Laughter
Yesterday, as Jay was entering his home, carrying armloads of groceries and stumbling through the front door, while trying to simultaneously push the button on his key FOB to lock his truck and get to a ringing telephone in the house, a thought crossed his mind. Just as he entered the home, his five-year old son came running from another room in the house to greet him with his arms upstretched for an “uppy-hug,” catching his pinky toe on the leg of the sofa. At this point, the telephones annoying ring subsided, only to be replaced with shrill, ultra high frequency wailing coming from his son who was in dire pain.
After coercing him to let Daddy see his toe and affirming that it was not broken, Jay coddled him for a few minutes. Jay felt determined to alleviate his sons red and teary face with the pouty expression on it. After a few more hugs and sweet talk, Jay noticed his son had almost smiled. Then, Jay poked him in his side with a wiggling finger, telling him not to laugh, which in turn caused the little boy to burst into spontaneous laughter.
Jay knew from his own experience that his sons toe still ached and he felt badly for him. Although Jay understood his sons physical pain, it was the all-healing joy of his sons laughter that inspired the thought What is the therapeutic nature of laughter and the beneficial power of positive thinking on the body?
Many scientific studies over the past 50 years have demonstrated the harmful effects of stress and the benefits of proper diet, exercise, lifestyle, and positive thought; however, laughter has not been included specifically among the protocols within most recommendations made for lifestyle changes leading to a healther body. Fifty years ago, Hans Selye, a Canadian physician and animal researcher published the ground-breaking book, General Adaption Syndrome (GAS) (Selye, 1956; Ward,. 1998). The three stages of physiological breakdown leading to death which are described include alarm, resistance and finally exhaustion. Hans Selye identified that the consequences of chronic stress in animal research lead to all the same diseases of aging that are seen in humans today.
Dean Ornish, M.D., a Cardiologist, and founder, president, and director of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California has directed clinical research for the past 28 years demonstrating, for the first time, that comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse even severe coronary heart disease. But those lifestyle changes did not specifically identify the therapeutic benefits of laughter.
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a team led by Dr. Michael Miller, M.D., Director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, have shown for the first time that the physiological effects of laughter are directly linked to healthy blood vessels. In a February 20, 2007 journal article, the team reported that mental stress is associated with impairment of the endothelium layer of cells, the protective barrier lining our blood vessels. Impairment can cause a series of inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries and ultimately lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Stress hormones suppress various components of the immune system responses, particularly those related to anti-viral and anti-tumor defenses, and prevent the bodys natural healing response from regenerating new cells. Measurements of blood chemistry in the sample group in the study, taken while laughing, were shown to reverse the degenerative effects associated with the biophysiology of the subjects.
Therefore, mirthful laughter, whether it be “real” or “faked,” has been shown in scientific research to reverse the degenerative physiological effects on the body of stress hormones by diminishing the secretion of cortisol and epinephrine, while enhancing immune reactivity and offsetting the symptoms of chronic stress.
Jay is passing on to his son a healthy way of learning to cope with stress in his life, while simultaneously teaching him the power of positive thinking at a very early age in life.