Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Science of Laughter

"Cheese...milk's leap toward immortality."
-Clifton Fadiman

Hello all - last week in Spirituality and Science, we looked more into the metaphysical topic of the mind/body connection. One of the ways listed in the post to help increase physical health through mental methods was through laughter. This week, we'll talk about how laughing actually causes a physical reaction that can improve your physical state.

If you recall the relation between chronic stress and a weakened immune system from the last post, you understand how the release of hormones in the body can affect you. How an emotional event (such as stress) can actually cause physical problems in the body over time. Luckily, the same is true for positive emotional states.

Think about the last time you really laughed. Really laughed until your stomach hurt afterward. You probably felt pretty good even after you stopped laughing. Why?

Just as anxiety releases stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (adrenalin), laughter has been found to decrease these hormones. Even better, laughter actually releases brain chemicals or neurotransmitters called endorphins. Endorphins act upon the brain much the same way as opiates do. They cause a general feeling of well-being and act as natural pain-killers. I think of them as the body's own natural anti-depressant. Studies have also shown that while chronic stress can depress the body's immune system, laughter can increase a person's immune response. I saw a movie recently where a woman diagnosed with brain cancer decided to forgo conventional medical treatment (which I'm not condoning but it worked for her), and rented nothing but comedies for several months so that she could laugh all the time. Her cancer went into remission and at the time of filming the movie, it had not returned. It truly can have amazing effects on the body's ability to heal itself.

Guess how much it costs? Something this amazing is absolutely and completely free. You just need to set yourself up to laugh. Do you have any funny friends? If so, make a lunch date or invite them over for dinner. Do you have a favorite comedy sitcom or movie? Rent it, or better yet, buy it so that you can always have it on hand if you're feeling down. I have a movie that never fails to make me laugh at loud no matter how many times I watch it (I'd tell you the movie, but everyone has different tastes and mine is definitely on the goofy side). Also remember, it's when you least feel like laughing that it will probably do the most good. And if you can laugh at yourself, you're doing really well! So for this week, go find something that makes you chuckle. Discover what turns on your funny bone and feel that endorphin may just become a little healthier in the process!

1 comment:

David Nowlin said...

This comment has nothing to do with your post.

I saw your comment on Nathan Bransford's Week in Publishing post today and it made me laugh. I've just recently gotten back into blogging and following blogs (as a sort of tool for trying to learn how to self-promote now that I've finished my book) and I have to say, I've had all manner of problems figuring out how to post comments without looking stupid. Foremost among which was the fact that Google and Blogger merged since I last used Blogger, so I had one account for each and it took me forever to figure out why clicking on my name didn't bring up my profile or point people to my blog. And I have a doctorate degree too. :p

So... just so you know, I feel your pain.