Health Benefits of Anticipating Laughter

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I’ve already written about the stress relieving benefits of laughter, maintaining a sense of humor in the face of stress. There is a wealth of research that shows that laughter is healthy for our bodies and minds in addition to making us feel good, and some of my favorite research shows another surprising benefit of laughter: it can help decrease stress hormones even before it happens!

Researchers from Loma Linda University in California studied the cortisolepinephrine (adrenaline) and dopac (a metabolite of the neurtransmitter dopamine) levels of male volunteers both before, during, and after a humorous event that they were anticipating.

They found that cortisol was reduced by 39%, epinephrine by a whopping 70%, and dopac by 39%, even before the laughter began!

The same team studied the health effects of laughter two years ago in a similarly structured study that examined beta-endorphins (the body's natural painkiller) and human growth hormone (HCG, which helps stimulate the immune system, along with other functions), and found that they increased by 27% and 87% respectively when subjects anticipated watching a humorous video. (The control group experienced no such increase.)

Dr. Lee Berk, the lead researcher from the team, said in a press release, “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.”

I heartily agree! Laughter is one of my favorite stress relievers. And, even though my favorite kind is that side-splitting laughter that comes from spontaneous silliness that can’t be planned, this research confirms that watching shows, videos and movies that you know will make you laugh can start relieving stress before you even begin watching them!

Here are some important takeaways I find in this research, as well as other valuable things to remember about laughter as it relates to stress relief.

You Can Plan Laughter Into Your Life
Watching humorous videos can bring real and measurable benefits, as demonstrated in this and other research.  You don't have to wait for funny moments to occur through the course of your life before you have a good laugh (and the benefits that come from one), you can plan laughter into your life by watching things that lift your spirits and make you laugh.

Anticipating Laughter Is Helpful, Too
As mentioned, simply knowing where your next good laugh is coming from can help you to feel better and bring changes in your physiology.  This means that you can create these benefits for yourself if you plan fun events in your life--watching comedies, as well as planning game nights and making an effort to talk to those who make you laugh on a regular basis.  Don't forget to plan these laughable events into your everyday life, and look forward to them when they are in your near future.

Reruns Can Bring Real Stress Relief
Watching rerun episodes of comedies you enjoy can relax you, and relieve stress even better than new episodes of shows you love. Read more about why here.  And then cue up your favorite episodes.

Maintaining a Sense of Humor Is Healthy
If you can cultivate the ability to laugh at the stressors in your life whenever possible, you can reverse some of the toll that stress takes on your body.  This kind of coping can be contagious as well, so it's a technique that can bring benefits to your loved ones, too.

 Here you can learn to maintain a sense of humor and laugh when stressed, whenever possible.

Berk LS, Felten DL, Tan SA, Bittman BB, Westengard J. Modulation of neuroimmune parameters during the eustress of humor-associated mirthful laughter. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, March 2001.

Derrick, Jaye, Ph.D. (2012).Energized by TelevisionFamiliar Fictional Worlds Restore Self-Control.Social Psychological and Personality Science,4; 3; p299-p307.

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