Is laughter really the best medicine?. The simple act of laughing can be refreshing as you stretch numerous face and body muscles and oxygenate more tissues by breathing faster. Even more fascinating is the fact that a strong immune system, a healthy heart, and a stress-free body all lie in the power of a good joke. Researchers are finding more and more evidence of the health benefits of laughter, including better memory.
More Laughing, Less StressingIt may be worth the effort to remember the punchline of your favorite jokes. Stress can damage the brain's neurons, leaving it more vulnerable to mental illnesses and memory loss. A research team at Loma Linda University found that laughter caused by a simple, funny video reduced the amount of brain damage caused by cortisol, a stress hormone. The research subjects who viewed the funny video did better on a memory test than the subjects who did not. In addition to reducing cortisol, laughter can increase the amount of antibodies that fight common infections, including the common cold, thereby boosting the immune system in numerous ways.
A Happy Heart is a Healthy HeartResearchers at the University of Maryland showed comedies to their subjects and found that the laughter they provoked helped increase blood flow. When the same group of study subjects viewed a disturbing scene from a movie, blood vessels narrowed and blood flow was reduced. Researchers concluded that laughter can help protect the blood vessels from cardiovascular disease.
Sense Humor, Not PainA Swiss research study found that laughter can increase pain tolerance. The reason is because every giggle and chuckle can trigger the release of endorphins that help relieve pain and promote a sense of well-being.
Laughter proves to be a great way to reduce one of the common causes of health problems--stress--both physically and mentally. In turn, controlling stress can help you keep your blood sugar levels stable, thus preventing spikes and drops that can reap you of your energy. In the end, laughter proves to be worth the wrinkles.
McClelland D, Cheriff AD. Psychol and Health. 1997; 12:329-44.