Because I believe in the many benefits of play and laughter, I have both posted here about them and given presentations around the country about their value. (Many of the programs have been given to lawyers, who typically are quick to see the serious benefits of lightening up.) And once I began learning a few years ago about the brain, I was even more convinced of play's and laughter's advantages.
With a big smile, I read an article published yesterday in Medical News Today titled "Repetitive Laughter Response Is Similar To The Effect Of Repetitive Exercise." In the article, the research of Doctors Lee Berk and Stanley Tan is described. (This pair have been doing laughter research for quite a while now; I have referred to them in articles I have written over the years on laughter.) The writer explains that Berk and Tan have developed a program for incorporating mirthful laughter into your life called Laughercise© (not to be confused with Laughercize).
From the article:
Dr. Lee S. Berk, a preventive care specialist and psychoneuroimmunology researcher at Loma Linda University's Schools of Allied Health (SAHP) and Medicine, and director of the molecular research lab at SAHP, Loma Linda, CA, and Dr. Stanley Tan have picked up where [Norman] Cousins left off. Since the 1980s, they have been studying the human body's response to mirthful laughter and
have found that laughter helps optimize many of the functions of various body systems. Berk and his colleagues were the first to establish that laughter helps optimize the hormones in the endocrine system, including decreasing the levels of cortisol and epinephrine, which lead to stress reduction. They have also shown that laughter has a positive effect on modulating components of the immune system, including increased production of antibodies and activation of the body's protective cells, including T-cells and especially Natural Killer cells' killing activity of tumor cells. Their studies have shown that repetitious "mirthful laughter," which they call Laughercise©, causes the body to respond in a way similar to moderate physical exercise. Laughercise© enhances your mood, decreases stress hormones, enhances immune activity, lowers bad cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, and raises good cholesterol (HDL).
As Berk explains, "We are finally starting to realize that our everyday behaviors and emotions are modulating our bodies in many ways." His latest research expands the role of laughter even further.
Researchers looked at the effect of laughter on appetite. Once again, the research showed that laughing does affect the body. (This particular research may be good news for those experiencing wasting disease, one of the symptoms of which is loss of appetite.)
We still have much to learn about laughter, and we also can say we know that it affects our bodies in ways that are supportive of health. The article ends:
[Berk] acknowledges, "I am more amazed by the interrelatedness of laughter and body responses with the more evidence and knowledge we collect. It's fascinating that positive emotions resulting from behaviors such as music playing or singing, and now mirthful laughter, translate into so many types of [biological] mechanism optimizations. As the old biblical wisdom states, it may indeed be true that laughter is a good medicine."
Some questions for you:
- How much are you going to laugh today?
- Do you have people in your life who laugh easily and often?
- When is the last time you had a good, long belly laugh?
- If you believe in the value of laughter, do you need to make any changes in your laughter habits?
Some past posts about the value of laughter:
- The fun, fun fundamentals of success
- "Want to age well? Laugh it up": "Who will hang out with you when all you have is yourself?"
- Laughter truly has some serious benefits (even for lawyers): Take advantage of those benefits today
- I know you've heard this before but please think about it anew: Your weekend gelotology
Note (added May 1, 2010): Click to listen to or read an interview with Dr. Lee Berk (NPR) about his laughter research.
Note (added May 15, 2010): Click to read the abstract of the research article.