Monday, September 22, 2008

One Best Medicine

Amidst the soaring prices of medical commodities world wide, there constantly remains one best, yet, inexpensive medicine: laughter.

Despite the idea that consumers might have taken for granted the significance of laughing these days, researchers are continuing exploring further on how laughter - combined with an active sense of humor - helps from relieving stress to combating diseases.

Laughter and the brain
An article, published in Wikipedia, states that modern neurophysiology links laughter to the activation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and other parts of limbic system. The latter, which is considered to be a primitive part of the brain, is involved in emotions and helping us with basic functions necessary for survival. There are two known structures in the limbic system that involve in producing laughter: amygdale and hippocampus.

Cardiovascular disease
According to the research (May 11, 2007) spearheaded by Michael Miller, M.D., director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland School of Medical Center and associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, cardiovascular disease - today’s leading cause of death (World Health Organization) - can be prevented by laughter. He admitted that the team does not know yet why laughing protects the heart but stated that mental stress is associated with impairment of endothelium, the protective barrier lining our blood vessels, causing a series of inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries and ultimately to a heart attack. Hence, the need for a regular hearty good laugh is recommended.

Other areas
Melissa B. Wanzer, EdD, professor of communication studies at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, looked, in her new research, at how humor helps medical professionals cope with their difficult jobs. She found out that if employees view their managers as humor-oriented, they also view them as more effective. She also added that self-disparaging humor, making fun of oneself, is a very effective form of humor communication especially when it is done appropriately with available props. Humor, she noted, is indeed beneficial in other areas as well.

Laughter as part of its culture
Ranked second by Axa Life Outlook Index (November 28, 2007) as happiest and optimistic people in Asia, it is not that surprising to know that Beethoven del Valle Bunagan, popularly known as Michael V, is featured on Reader’s Digest Asia in commemoration for its 5th Annual Humour Special alongside two other foreign comedians (Readers’ Digest, September 2008).

“Filipinos are able to find even the slimmest silver lining in a tropical thunderstorm. There isn’t one scandal in government which hasn’t been made into a joke. Instead of being horrified, we laughed about Imelda’s shoes. Instead of cringing in shame at Joseph Estrada’s incompetence as President, we made legions of Erap jokes. Hello, Garci? A ringtone was made out of it! (Maricar, 2008)”.

In his article entitled Power of Laughter, Jose Javier Reyes went deeper by explaining this behavior based on socio-cultural and historical aspects. “Caught between a rock and a hard place, Filipinos say "bahala na." Literally, it means "come what may." Figuratively, it means much more. The phrase derives from Bathala, the ancient Filipino's Supreme Being, caretaker of life on earth and beyond, from whom all providence comes. The invocation of "banal na" affirms a trust in divine wisdom. Filipinos know that the natural order of events will take their course, leaving no room for angst nor the predilection to take each event apart and delve for spiritual malaise . . . After all, at earlier times in their past, they have witnessed similar upheavals. And to what end? The Spaniards came and the Spaniards went. So did the Japanese and the Americans. Like the land itself, only the Filipinos, with their passionate Christian belief that suffering is but a stepping stone to a happy ending, endures. Ambition, politics, and men who try to control deserve the reception they get, laughter. Natural forces receive a similar reception. If one listens closely though, it becomes apparent that Filipino humor does not jeer at nature's destructiveness but rather expresses an optimism in its healing powers. Having lived closed to the earth, they know that nature gives and takes in a cycle as eternal as life and death.”

As what Robert R. Province, Ph.D. said, laughter is genetic. It is a mechanism everyone has and is part of universal human vocabulary. There are thousands of languages, hundreds of thousands of dialects, but everyone speaks laughter in pretty much the same way. Thus, everyone can laugh.

-Amanah Busran Lao, HAIN


• Murray, Michelle “Laughter is the "Best Medicine" for Your Heart” May 11, 2007 <>

• “Go Ahead and Laugh” January 26, 2008
• Siti Rohani “Three Funny Men” Readers’ Digest, September 2008
• Cheryl Arcibal “Filipinos 2nd happiest people in Asia-study” November 28, 2007 GMANews.TV
• Maricar “Filipino Humor a Hindrance?” February 5, 2008
• Jose Javier Reyes “The Power of Laughter”