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No Laughing Matter: Treat Dementia with Laughter
Laughter can reduce agitation by 20%—similar to antipsychotic drugs
By lyssa - 08:32PM - 03/26/2012
You know how everyone says, "laughter is the best medicine" ... and laughing always makes you feel better, even if you’re laughing while tears streak your face? Now, laughter is scientifically proven to make you feel better.
A new study on humor therapy, dubbed the SMILE study, reveals that humor is as effective as widely used antipsychotic drugs in managing agitation in patients with dementia—and avoids serious drug side effects.
While the study focused on dementia patients, the implications are broad. Between 70 and 80 percent of people suffering from dementia are troubled by agitation, a problem for both patients with the disease and their caregivers. "Agitated behaviors include physical and verbal aggression, wandering, screaming, and repetitive behaviors and questions," says lead researcher, Dr. Lee-Fay Low, a Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales's School of Psychiatry.
The SMILE study found a 20 percent reduction in agitation using humor therapy, where caregivers specifically trained to use humor, smiles, and laughter to manage pain and stress. This improvement is comparable to the common use of antipsychotic drugs. "This shows humor therapy should be considered before medication for agitation, particularly taking into account its side effects," says Dr. Low.
In the SMILE study agitation decreased not only during the 12 week humor therapy program, but remained lower at 26-week follow up.
While the scientific study focuses on dementia patients, you’ve no doubt felt the benefits of a good laugh to cure a bad mood or a casual case of the blues, thanks to the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins. The release of endorphins also happens with massage and acupuncture. All three options are a great first line of defense against a variety of ailments. Jump-starting your feel-good process could be as simple as downloading an episode of your favorite funny TV show!