For quite a while, scientists have known that laughing is good for you. Watching a comedy, going to a stand-up show, or hanging out with funny friends has a positive effect on your cardiovascular system. A new study has gone a step further in showing how healthy laughing could be.
Back in 2006, U.S. researchers were looking at how the brain interacted with the immune system and a person’s behavior. During the study, they found that anticipating a laugh (knowing a laugh is coming) actually boosted health- protecting hormones. In 2008, these researchers revisited the topic and found great news again.
They found that anticipating a humorous laughing experience reduces the level of stress hormones in the body. These hormones are potentially dangerous. The study says that by seeking out funny experiences, we can actually make physiological changes in our bodies that could keep us healthy.
Two years ago, they found that anticipating laughter raises the level of beta-endorphins (by 27%), which are chemicals that help alleviate depression. This effect was not seen in people who didn’t anticipate laughter.
In the same vein this year, the team found that anticipating laughter lowered the levels of three different stress hormones. These were cortisol, epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline), and dopac. The latter is a brain chemical that produces epinephrine. The three were reduced by 39%, 70% and 38%, respectively. These are all significant decreases and are important because if stress hormones are high, they can weaken the body’s immune system.
They discovered this in 16 healthy men who were put in a control group or an experiment group. Researchers drew blood prior to the event, four times during it and three times afterward. Measurements showed that the experimental group, anticipating laughter, had sharp drops in those three stress hormones.
This means that even thinking about something that may be funny can lower stress hormones and protect the body’s systems. Then actually laughing is another thing entirely. Laughter seems to truly be medicine.
And that is no joke.