More than 30 years ago Norman Cousins proposed the idea that humor provided health benefits: “Laughter is inner jogging.” The scientific community, quick to acknowledge the benefits of running but not laughing, believed that our thoughts and emotions could not impact our physiology or health. Many subsequent studies, however, have proven that our mind-set does indeed alter our chemistry and health status. “Biotranslation” refers to the now widely accepted concept that thoughts and emotions have biological effects.
Two years ago Dr. Lee Berk and his team at California’s Loma Linda University showed that the anticipation of laughter boosted certain health-promoting hormones. Specifically, beta-endorphins (mood elevators) increased by 27 percent and human growth hormone (an aid to immunity) rose by 87 percent. The researchers then set out to see if stress hormones were reduced by the same situation. Their findings will be presented at an upcoming meeting of the American Physiological Society.
The study found that during the anticipatory phase, there was a reduction in the level of three stress hormones. Cortisol, the primary, was reduced by 39 percent, while epinephrine (also called adrenaline) and dopac (a cousin of epinephrine) were reduced by 70 percent and 38 percent respectively. Dr. Berk concludes, “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 the 1800s Lord Byron, without conducting any research, reached a similar conclusion: “Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” Comic Milton Berle is quoted as saying, “Laughter is an instant vacation.” And according to Mark Twain, “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”
This research and these comments remind us that life is too important to be taken seriously. So yuk it up!