Happiness, stress, yoga and laughter

Happiness, stress, yoga and laughter

Happines Story 1

Scientists admit yoga can relieve stress

By Tamara McLean

July 18, 2007 01:00am

SCIENTISTS have found the first proof that yoga can ease the pain of premenstrual tension.

Tests on women with the pre-period syndrome have found the ancient Indian art form can relieve their psychological and physical symptoms.

It also appears yoga can lift levels of an antidepressant-like hormone, allopregnanolone, typically low in chronic sufferers.

But women’s health specialists are sceptical about the findings and say most women with PMS need more than stretching and meditation to get relief.

Indian researcher Ratna Sharma has told the World Congress of Neuroscience in Melbourne she has the first scientific evidence that yoga helps PMS.

“It is widely understood in India that yoga works (for PMS) but we’ve never shown it,” said Dr Sharma, a physiologist at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, in New Delhi.

“The fact that it appears to influence symptoms and also change levels of an important hormone is very significant indeed.”

Researchers enlisted more than 40 women to practise yoga intensively, at least five times a week, for a month.

Half suffered the symptoms of PMS, typically psychological stress, depression, body aches and bloating in the week before a monthly period.

Extensive questionnaires completed before and after the course showed yoga significantly reduced PMS symptoms in 64 per cent of sufferers.

“The women with the worst psychological symptoms benefited most,” Dr Sharma said.

Researchers also tested participants’ hormone levels before the yoga course and found sufferers had significantly lower levels of allopregnanolone, a biochemical known for its antidepressant qualities.

But after the trial, levels had risen, particularly in women whose depression had been alleviated.

Dr Sharma said the yogic activity somehow stimulated a hormonal change that in turn relieved symptoms but how it did this was not known.

Sue Reddish, medical director of the Jean Hailes Medical Centre for Women in Melbourne, said relaxation and exercise were known to help depression, which is closely linked to PMS.

“If yoga is enough to help a particular person that’s good but I doubt it’s enough for the majority of women with severe PMS,” Dr Reddish said.

Happiness Story 2

The Curative Power of Laughter

If you don’t laugh much, you may be reducing your chances of living longer

Jones is your good friend. You have not seen him for years. You shared a lot of secrets and happy moments together as undergraduate students. He got a scholarship and went to further his studies abroad. You weren’t so lucky and remained at home. You are haunted now by memories of the good moments you shared together. Distance is a barrier to your being together, physically. Then all of a sudden, Jones, back from abroad, pays you a surprise visit. How would you react to such a visit?

There is no doubt that at first sight of each other, the atmosphere would be filled with warmth and shouts of joy and ecstasy. You would, most probably, embrace and hug each other. Laughter by both of you would be very audible. No surprise that passersby or onlookers who find you in such a happy mood will join in the laughing. Laughter is sometimes like a contagious disease! Many of us will laugh when we see someone else laughing. Indeed, it is nice to laugh and laugh well.

You laugh when you are happy at something or with someone. If you are one of those who hardly laughs, you are missing out on a lot. In fact, you are not doing your health any good. It has been medically proven that laughter is the “best” medicine to all kinds of diseases.

Writing on the subject, Valerie Brett noted: “Laughter is good for you. It is a very powerful force that positively affects the whole body ê¢__‘Ô_ Laughter stimulates the brain, the nervous system, the respiratory system, the hormonal system and the muscular system. Studies show that it lowers blood pressure, lightens depression, increases muscle flexion, can reduce allergy symptoms, strengthens the immune system and reduces stress.”

In his book, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, Sigmund Freud describes laughter as the body’s way of safely releasing anxiety, aggression, fear and anger.

Health professionals admit that laughing decreases stress hormones, including adrenaline, and the growth hormone, allowing them to return to normal levels. Stress hormones constrict blood vessels causing high blood pressure and heart problems. So when stress hormones are reduced, the body effectively fights against diseases.

“Laughter is your body’s built-in stress releaser. When you laugh, even chuckle, your entire body is working to help improve your health and well-being. Another way to reduce stress and improve your overall health is to exercise,” wrote Valerie Brett. “A good, hearty laugh is equivalent to an ‘internal jogging.’ Laughing gives the diaphragm, abdominal, intercostal, respiratory accessory, and facial muscles a complete workout ê¢__‘Ô_ Laughter not only provides stress release and exercise, but reduces pain as well. Laughing triggers the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers, and provides a temporary distraction from pain”

An article in Reader’s Digest on the heath benefits of laughter notes that scientific evidence has shown that laughter helps people breathe easier and massages the heart and other vital organs. Laughter, the author remarks, may also increase the release of disease-fighting cells in the immune system. Like exercise, laughter quickens the pulse and stimulates the cardiovascular system. “A positive outlook also guards against illness and may even increase longevity,” according to the article.

In a piece on the importance of laughter, author Karen Elizabeth Angus, remarks, “People who laugh are pleasant to be with; pull a long face all day and you will soon notice that others try to keep out of your way. Laughing speaks of humor and the importance of laughter can never be underestimated. It is a part of life.

“On the scientific front, laughter makes for good health. When a person laughs, chemicals named endorphins are released. These are the same chemicals triggered in response to sexual stimulation. They make a person feel good, relieving stress and indirectly reducing one’s risks of suffering a heart attack and other health problems.”

When you laugh you help relax facial muscles that can become very tense after long hours of work. Plenty of laughter, Angus notes, creates “laugh lines” in a person’s face, giving the person a kindly look, as opposed to wrinkles and creases caused by stress, unhappiness and hardship, which age a person and give him or her a hard and angry appearance: “Laughter is uplifting. It enriches a relationship by taking it to a deeper level where there is understanding and a mutual letting go of a person’s inhibitions and reservations.”

Valerie Brett has this recommendation for you: If stress is taking over your life, if you are feeling unhealthy or you just want some relief ê¢__‘Ô_ LAUGH! Watch a funny movie, hang around a funny friend, read the comic strips in the newspaper or read one of those funny forwards that your friends e-mail to you.

“If all else fails and you can’t seem to get a laugh anywhere ê¢__‘Ô_ fake it!” Brett advises. “Pretend to laugh ê¢__‘Ô_ out loud. It is the action of laughter, not the mood that your body reacts to, so you can get all of the benefits of laughter even if you’re not in the mood to laugh. The more you laugh the better. The harder you laugh the better. So let it out ê¢__‘Ô_ your health could depend on it.”

Simply put, the more you laugh the more you increase your chances to live longer. The Bible strongly recommends a positive outlook: “Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time” (Proverbs 17:22). Laugh, laugh and laugh! It feels good.