Being someone who is known for her big laugh, I loved the latest research findings by Lee Berk from Loma Linda University in California that indicate the health benefits of laughter. In a small study of diabetes patients, researchers split patients –all with hypertension and hyperlipidemia (a risk factor for cardiovascuolar disease) into two groups. Both groups were given standard diabetes medication. However, over a year of treatments, the participants in the intervention group viewed 30 minutes of humor of their choosing. The participants in the control group did not get the laughter intervention.
By two months into the study, the participants in the laughter group had lower levels of the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine, both considered to be measures of stress. Stress is known to be correlated with many health problems, including obesity. After one year in the study, laughter participants’ HDL cholesterol (the good kind) had risen 26 percent but control group participants had only risen 3 percent. In another measure, C-reactive proteins, a marker of inflammation and cardiovascular disease, decreased 66 percent in the laughter group but only 26 percent in the control group.
“The best clinicians understand that there is an intrinsic physiological intervention brought about by positive emotions such as mirthful laughter, optimism and hope,” said study leader Lee Berk. Other studies on laughter have found that even the mere anticipation of humor can bring about changes in body chemistry and that laugher can increase blood flow in a way that is thought to be healthy. Finally, in Berk’s most recent study, researchers found that volunteers who laughed while watching videos experienced changed levels of hormones which are known to regulate appetite.
While more research is needed to really determine how laughter is implicated with all of these positive changes, I would recommend laughing it up. There are hardly any reasons not to. It’s free, it’s always available, and people generally find you a lot easier to be around. There are a few grumps out there who think it is suspicious if you are too happy, but don’t let them get you down. You might even wear off on them eventually. And, your health will benefit in the meantime. If you have trouble finding something to laugh about, here are some suggestions. Hang around friends and colleagues who have a good sense of humor and like to laugh. Watch funny movies or videos. Find humor in your own life—particularly the hard parts. There are even Laughter Yoga groups that have sprung up around the world where people get together just to laugh because of the physiological and psychological benefits that occur. Apparently the body doesn’t care why you are laughing, only that you laugh. Watch this video on you tube to get the idea. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jedd2FiZTqM. Warning: you might find yourself laughing for no reason.
Laughter appears to be the latest workout routine for the well-being of the body, no special clothes or gym fees required. Try it often and see what happens!