The old adage proselytizing the benefits of good old fashioned humor has been confirmed and in fact expanded by new research.
Of interest, is the discovery that anticipating a mirthful laughter experience boosts health-protecting hormones and also reduces potentially detrimental stress hormones.
In 2006, Loma Linda University researchers investigated the interaction between the brain, behavior, and the immune system and found 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.
According to Dr. Lee Berk, the study team’s lead researcher of Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA, “Our findings lead us to believe that by seeking out positive experiences that make us laugh we can do a lot with our physiology to stay well.”
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.
As a result, the researchers suggest that anticipating a positive event can decrease stress hormones that can be detrimental when chronically released. These findings have implications for understanding the modalities that can benefit stress reduction in health and wellness programs.
Source: American Physiological Society