Ready, set, laugh

By • Published: June 13th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Cue your internal laugh track. Wait for it… wait for it. Something funny is about to happen … right now! OK, so there is no punchline. But according to a new study, you may not even need the jokes to get some health benefits of laughter.

Apparently, just the expectation of laughter is enough to unleash protective hormones that boost immunity and lessen depression. And researchers at Loma Linda University in California recently found that anticipating a good laugh also closes the curtain on three stress hormones. It’s a win-win situation for your immune system, which tends to weaken when it’s frequently exposed to stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline.

To understand how anticipating a laugh affected stress hormones, the researchers studied two groups of men… a control group and a group that was expecting something funny to happen. Blood was drawn at several intervals to measure participants’ hormone levels before, during and after the laugh-inducing event.

The levels of three stress hormones dropped significantly in the men who expected to laugh. On average, these men had seventy percent less adrenaline in their bloodstreams than men in the control group. They also had thirty-eight percent less cortisol [core-tih-zahl] and thirty-nine percent less of a chemical linked to adrenaline production.

So what happens when you get to the joke? Other research studies show that laughter can ease tension, improve mood, improve oxygen flow to lungs, alleviate tummy troubles and even produce natural painkillers.

And that’s a punchline worth hearing.