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Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter and Cannabis

Does Cannabis Tickle Your Funny Bone?

No doubt, you’ve heard people quoting these for decades, “Laughter is the best medicine” or “Laughter may be more powerful than a prescription.” 

There’s little doubt that they refer to the cathartic effect we feel when we have a good laugh, because laughter helps shut down the body’s stress response, cutting off the release of harmful stress hormones. When researchers compared test subjects who received an hour of quiet time to those who had an hour of humour and laughter, they found that the laughter group showed significant drops in blood levels of several key stress hormones, while the group sitting quietly had no change.

Groucho Marx used to say, “A laugh is like an aspirin, only it works twice as fast.” And for many, this rings true. We feel better after laughing and according to many doctors and scientific researchers, laughter has been proven to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and improve brain function.

 

Every time you laugh, it’s like taking a miracle pill for your health

While we all know from experience that laughter usually makes us feel good, there are a number of scientifically-proven benefits that it provides.

In an article entitled “Stress Relief from Laughter? It’s no joke” the Mayo Clinic cited a number of positive things that laughter can do. In a lengthy list, they explained both the short-and long-term benefits of laughter, including that it stimulates organs, enhances the intake of oxygen-rich air, and increases the endorphins that are released by the brain. In the longer term it can improve mood, lessen depression and help to relieve pain.

Furthermore, the Mayo Clinic article states: “Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.”

Another interesting article in Scientific American reports the results of another study’s findings that “Laughing with friends releases feel-good brain chemicals, which also relieve pain.” Until this study, scientists had yet to prove that laughing actually causes a release of endorphins. “Very little research has been done into why we laugh and what role it plays in society,” said study researcher Robin Dunbar, of the University of Oxford. “We think that it is the bonding effects of the endorphin rush that explain why laughter plays such an important role in our social lives.”

Dunbar concluded that after her subjects were exposed to humorous stimuli that caused them to laugh for about 15 minutes, their pain threshold increased. The article went on to say: “All tests participants’ ability to tolerate pain increased after laughing. On average, watching about 15 minutes of comedy in a group increased pain threshold by 10 percent. Participants tested alone showed slightly smaller increases in their pain threshold.”

 

Can cannabis stimulate laughter?

One study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, entitled the “Effects of smoking marijuana on brain perfusion and cognition” studied the effects of smoking cannabis on regional cerebral blood flow and cognitive performance in 12 recreational users in a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study. They found that cannabis stimulates blood flow to the right frontal and the left temporal lobes, areas of the brain which are associated with laughter. It’s been speculated that it’s this over-activity, stimulated by THC, in these regions that causes the laughter enjoyed after consuming cannabis. No such link has definitely been proven as yet, but it’s certainly another avenue of research that scientists should consider.

One thing is for certain, laughter and resilience are closely linked. When Dutch researchers asked 600 people 85 and older to identify the key components of successful aging, they came up with one that surprised even the experts: psychological health. But rather than defining psychological health as the lack of depression or other mental health conditions, they told researchers it meant being able to adjust to circumstances, focus on gains rather than losses, and appreciate your blessings. There’s another name for it: resilience.

Resilience is why certain kids who grow up surrounded by poverty or cruelty still manage to get into top universities and become successful. It’s why people rebuild after hurricanes or fires. Humour and resilience are actually quite similar. After all, what is humour but the ability to make light of real life? Laughter keeps you optimistic, helps you cope, reduces stress, and reminds you of what’s important in life.

Do we know exactly why we giggle so much after using cannabis? Well, we’re starting to learn why, but at least for now, we have scientific proof that the giggles we experience while using cannabis, help us to enhance our health, build our resilience and enjoy a belly-laughing bout of spontaneous laughter that’s good for the soul.

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