Health - Alternative Medicine
By: - at July 24, 2013

The Health Benefits of Humor and Music

If conversation is the lyrics, then laughter is the music…” – Nicolas Sparks

Laughing to MusicOkay, this is not an advertisement from Billboard and your local gag show to force you to hook your eyes and ears to your TV and radio. Well, even if that’s the case, who in the world doesn’t enjoy humor and chilling to music?

The entire human populace – from the age of The Flintstones to this modern age of computer geeks –has spent countless time on finding cures for different diseases and conditions. In their pursuit, synthetic drugs have become widely available as an answer to several medical conditions. However, even with advances in medical technology, some people have opted to look for more natural alternatives in aiding whatever medical conditions they have. Among methods used in naturopathy and non-pharmacological medical interventions, there are two that emerged to be extraordinary – humor and music.

The proceeding section will be talking about how these two can give you the health benefits that you once thought that only pills were able to give you.

 

Part I: The No-joke Medicine: Laughter

Abdominal spasms, shortness of breath, red face and trickling saliva: these are the symptoms of a person enjoying a good episode of Mr. Bean and the ever-clever gags of Canada’s Just for Laughs – and it is as contagious as coughs and colds.

Recently in 2011, research was published claiming that laughter has astounding physiological and mental benefits beyond what anyone had ever imagined. Well, this just means that hours of laughter will drive you towards good health - not to a mental health asylum. It has been concluded that laughter has the ability to activate some mechanisms within the body that can trigger physiological changes which eventually leads to a stronger immune system, increased pain threshold, and makes the body resistant from the damaging effects of stress - minus the dollar signs associated with pharmaceuticals. Indeed, laughter is a good way of pulling yourself together when things get way out of your hands.

happy couple laughing togetherAside from being your 911 in times of stress, laughter and humor also aids in your social life by connecting yourself to others more effectively. It serves as a very efficient ice breaker especially when talking to a new found friend; it makes your burdens lighter and makes you more focused and alert.

Laugh your way out from sickness
The reason behind why laughter holds tremendous effects on bodily processes lies in its ability to stimulate the body and release endorphins. A student once broke the silence of his class when he was asked what are endorphins. He said that it is a type of a fish that doesn’t get along with whale sharks and has stories of saving people from their near-death experiences in the ocean – well that might hold some truth if they were talking about dolphins.

Endorphins are chemicals that are naturally released in the body by the pituitary gland. It is also called the “feel-good hormone” because it can definitely make you feel more vibrant and happy. In its hearty presence, built-up tension in the body from stress is released. This tonic effect has been found to be evident up to 45 minutes after laughing. It can also boost immunity by stimulating the body and producing proteins that act as a defense from potential threats like diseases and cancer. Endorphins also improve the circulation by dilating the blood vessels – larger blood vessel diameter means efficient circulation and less risk of having heart attacks.

The Relationship of Emotion and Laughter
friends laughingEmotional stability is also in store for those people who laugh more. It has been found out that people who laugh often tend to be more emotionally stable than those who don’t. This stability is rooted in the effects of laughter which stabilizes mood. Laughter can also make you feel good inside and out – even after the laughter subsides.

This basically gives a more optimistic outlook on life even in times of difficulty, despair and grief. So whenever you feel like falling apart, go to your friends who can get you laughing - plunge in and get contaminated with their laughter and stabilize your rocking boat. There is really a lot of magic that hides behind the curtains of even a simple smile.

Humor and Mental Health
Well you might think that laughter, on the other side of the coin, is a symptom of mental illness. True! That is if someone is facing himself in front of a mirror and laughing while curling his hair with his fingers. Regardless of this, humor and laughter hold a lot benefits for your mental health.

  • Laughter dissolves distressing emotions – The human body is programmed to feel one emotion at a time. Laughter can overpower any negative emotion.
     
  • It gives you a chance to recharge and relax – Aside from the physical relaxation that endorphins can give you, laughter can also preoccupy your mind with positive thoughts eliminating any trace of stress and worry. In return, you will have enhanced vitality which can make you do more and live healthier.
     
  • Humor can shift your mood into high gear – have you ever had an experience wherein you were crying and your best friend suddenly turned the tides by cracking a joke? When words are incorporated with humor, it becomes a powerful mixture that can erase a bad mood. It is more like a pair of night vision goggles that can let you see in the dark.

The Social Benefits of Laughter
group of friends laughingThe social benefit of laughter can be defined by the snowball effect: Humor makes a conversation playful; a playful conversation brings in laughter. When a person laughs – or at the very least, just smiles– his aura becomes warm and inviting for everyone around. Having this kind of presentation makes you a beacon of positive feelings and strong emotional connections. This enables you to open up doors and eventually create a positive bond between you and others. Having this exceptional bond in your life will make you feel good as it de-buffs stress and anxiety – which are both detrimental in achieving the success that you are longing for.

If you can view health as a jigsaw puzzle – which is composed of pieces fitting together to form the complete figure – then social life is a very important piece that is necessary to complete it. A healthy social life means that you have a strong support system. It is a group of people which you can go to and express yourself when you need to. Establishing it means establishing trust. But first you must be appealing enough for them. This is where laughter comes in.

Shared laughter (or laughter with a group of people) has been seen to have more beneficial effects than laughing alone. Aside from the fact that laughing alone may give your room mate the idea that you have a mental illness, shared laughter is so much better because it allows you to have fun, establish trust and express your self – all at once. Others might say that honesty alone can build friendship, but the issue lies on how you will keep it going. By incorporating laughter in your honesty concoction, you will not just have something that is momentary, but a friendship that will always stay fresh and crisp all the time.

How to invite the spirit of laughter to come to you
Okay, set that Ouija board aside for you will not be using it. If you are convinced that laughter will make your social relationships develop into a frenzy, chances are, you have already decided to be someone with a good sense of humor. Most people think that it is easier said than done. Being humorous is not only about making others laugh. For you to share humor, you must first have it deep within you. Being humorous simply means that you have to have that “something” in you.

friends acting silly togetherFor the record: humans are born with laughter as a birthright. It is a natural part of life that can never be taken away – even if you grew up in a family where laughter seemed to have been outlawed. Truly, laughter and making others laugh is an innate ability. All you have to do is tap some resources and you will be good to go. Here are some thoughts that you may find useful in your pilgrimage to find the funny inside of you.

  • The very first step that you should take is to get rid of that cloak of defensiveness and inhibition. It doesn’t just drive you away from stressors but from potential friends as well. If you are limiting yourself, then you can never be truly funny. There is no fun in being defensive and holding yourself back.
     
  • Count your blessings – even a fifth grader knows that it is much more fun to count the good apples instead of counting the rotten ones. When you are caught in the middle, never ever let trials flatten your tires. Instead, take control and steer away from it by thinking about the good things that have happened.
     
  • Practice commensalism – this is not telling you that you must transform into a weird-looking orchid. This means that you should go where the fun is. See a bunch of friends laughing? Trash those second thoughts and plunge in.




Part II: Head Banging Towards Better Health

Okay, one rule: if you do not want to cloud your head with #@! =*, then never ask an orchestra conductor of how he defines music. Fortunately, most people can settle with a simple definition that casts out technicalities.

headphones and sound wavesMusic in layman's terms is defined as a mixture of sounds that goes along together in harmony. Music in this modern day is treated not only as a mere combination of do-re-mi’s but a form of a medically-accepted therapy as well – believe it or not. Music therapy has now been accepted as a form of non-pharmacological management of both pain and anxiety. The proceeding sections will unveil the mystery of how those written notes sometimes surpasses physician’s written prescription - right in front of your eyes.

Man and his existence with sound
The relationship of man and sound can be traced way back to prehistoric times. Man used sound as a form of communication when language was still in its crudest form. Sound has been a very important part of human lives and it has been used every single day since. It is no wonder how man and sound became so closely attached to each other.

It is very undeniable that the love of sound was greatly amplified when musical instruments were invented. The crude sounds that cavemen used to hear were placed on a greater height which gave birth to what people know now as music. It is then that man used sound as a form of entertainment.

The birth of music has been widely spread all over the world. The unique style of music that every country has is a living witness to this. Music as an integral part of tradition, gives identity to a certain place that makes them unique and sets them apart from any other place.

Get those ear plugs off and listen!
The benefits of listening to music

Would you believe that music holds tremendous power like kryptonite to Superman or spinach to Popeye? A pretty obvious indication would be the moment you were staring at the big screen, watching your favorite part of the movie, accompanied by hymns from a violin, and eventually you found yourself wiping tears. This proves how much power that very tiny note has.

Today, scientific explanations have paved way for people to understand this phenomenon better. You will see how sound can actually prepare you for almost anything – may it be a race, doing your home work or even doing your household chores.

An Orchestra of Brain Waves
brain and sound wavesThe recent advancement in medicine brought upon by the revolution of technology has enabled doctors and scientists see how the human brain actually works. This is made possible by a machine called Electro Encephalogram. This machine has the ability of projecting brain activity through a series of colorful waves (Yes, just like that default animation you see in Windows Media Player). In one study, a group of researchers found out that there are areas in the brain that respond positively in the presence of music. What they saw was basically a “light up” response in areas of the brain that is responsible for both vision and memory. With this, you can draw a crude conclusion that in the presence of music, you can actually bring your visual and learning capacity to a whole new level.

Dr Victoria Williamson of Goldsmith’s College in London said that there are actually numerous reactions that can take place in the body with the presence of music. There was a study in Canada that fueled this hypothesis even more. A group of scientists studied how music affects the parts of the brain that react to various stimuli that are inherently good for us – food, love and sex for example.

If so, music holds a large potential of redirecting most processes that govern the human body. What are some other advantages people gain from listening to music?

Lithium’s Mime
Lithium is greatly used in the practice of clinical psychiatry as a drug that stabilizes the mood of patients that have depression. In normal people, music alone can actually do the same thing. Whether you are doing air-guitar moves in tune of Black Sabbath or prefers to sit quietly and enjoy Mozart’s Concerto, music has been proven to have the ability of melting away those shades of blue. This notion has been supported by research published in Montreal which states that plugging in your headphones to your favorite beat can give you “chills”. Though this is not the official way of describing it, it is the closest way of how the body reacts in the presence of dopamine.

Dopamine is the very chemical that causes drug addicts to crave their drug of choice. If you think that dopamine is another feel-good hormone then you are right. In the presence of dopamine, one can experience a heightened perception of happiness – and they call it cloud 9.

girl listening to music smilingSome people listen to music to jump start their day, while some may listen to remove any negative feelings that they have. People have individual experiences as to how music helps them get through the “tough days” of their lives.

But what surprises scientists is actually how music makes the body produce dopamine considering the complexities associated with producing dopamine in the body.

Induced by Music
Stories of some people managing emotional or mental illness with music are not new stories anymore – you may even know some members of your community who are experiencing success with music.

The activity of the brain is greatly influenced by what type of brain waves the cortex produces. There are two types of waves that come into play when talking about brain functioning; the alpha wave and the beta wave. The alpha wave is a slow wave that makes the brain work – yes you guessed right – slower. On the other hand, beta waves are fast waves that can make your brain work – surprise! – faster.

Music comes into play by helping the brain generate those brain waves. When you feel stressed and anxious, and you feel like everything around you is traveling at 100 miles per hour, it is a good idea to induce alpha waves through slow, soulful types of music. But if you are battling with a ton of paper work that needs to be done by 3pm, then inducing faster beta waves will surely come in handy.

A Quarter Note for Stability
Lately, music has been used in pain management techniques like guided-imagery and hypnotism. It produces an ambiance conducive for one to transcend into another dimension.

Patients who are suffering from negative emotions often try to ignore them or completely fail to express those negative emotions. Though this is a negative response by the body, locking up bad memories is a way that the human body rescues itself from getting stressed. With the aid of music, these kinds of patients can actually let go of their emotions and awaken memories that died a long time ago much faster than through traditional therapy with a psychotherapist. This proves that music has a direct connection with the brain.

Patients who suffer from physiologic conditions like heart ailments, respiratory conditions and even certain types of cancers can also benefit from music. Aside from their brainwave-inducing capacity, music can also directly affect the activity of the cardiovascular system. In its presence, the cardiovascular system can go faster or slower. For patients having heart ailments, they will get the most out of listening to soothing music.

women listening to music while running and working outIf you want to get yourself energized before a workout, try to listen to an upbeat song that you really love. When listening to it, close your eyes and feel the beat. This will basically make your mind excited and primed for a fast-paced activity. You can even hype up your workouts by incorporating music into it. Just make sure that the movements required by your exercise program go well with the tempo of the songs that you’re listening to.

Therefore, the rule of the thumb is: when you want to relax, choose a type of music with a slower tempo – no frills, no erratic changes in key signature and those that have a very predictable structure.

Laugh and Chill
It has been a ride hasn't it? Well, there you go - the two most powerful things that dominate the world of no-pill treatment. Since you are now aware of how much these two can greatly help you battle everyday circumstances, it is wise to do both rather than choosing one alone. Instead of watching your favorite Saturday night TV show, go out with your friends and laugh your way through the night in a comedy bar. If you are a bunch of music lovers, then get a ticket to your favorite band’s concert instead of spending your day hunting raccoons in the woods alone. The choices are endless. Well, everyone has their preferred way of chilling out and having fun. Whatever that is, mix in a little bit of laughter and music. You will surely be surprised of how much it can give you.


 

 

 

 

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