Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

Here was an interesting — and useful — piece of research for anyone looking to stay healthy: It turns out, laughter really might be the best medicine.

Laughter_Header_100x100Science Daily reports that The American Physiological Society published a study that states: “Researchers investigating the interaction between the brain, behavior, and the immune system found in 2006 that simply anticipating a mirthful laughter experience boosted health-protecting hormones. Now, two years later, the same researchers have found that the anticipation of a positive humorous laughter experience also reduces potentially detrimental stress hormones.”

That’s right: Even fooling the brain into thinking you’re laughing might be good for your health.

For those interested in the scientific details, here’s how the study worked: “In their earlier work the researchers found that the anticipation of “mirthful laughter” had surprising and significant effects. Two hormones – beta-endorphins (the family of chemicals that alleviates depression) and human growth hormone (HGH; which helps with immunity) – increased by 27 and 87 percent respectively when volunteers anticipated watching a humorous video. There was no such increase among the control group who did not anticipate watching the humor film.”

“Using a similar protocol, the current research found that the same anticipation of laughter also reduced the levels of three stress hormones. Cortisol (termed “the stress hormone”), epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and dopac, a dopamine catabolite (brain chemical which helps produce epinephrine), were reduced 39, 70 and 38 percent, respectively (statistically significant compared to the control group). Chronically released high stress hormone levels can weaken the immune system.”