It is time to start laughing! Sense of humor may differ from one person to the next, but the results are still unequivocally the same, and more and more research is proving that the simple act of laughing may be far more powerful than people once thought. Studies have shown connections between laughter and the reduction of age-related memory loss, as well as a useful tool in chronic pain management. How is it possible that something as minute as a little recreational giggling can combat such serious physiological impairments? The trick is in the increase of positive chemicals in the brain such as endorphins and dopamine, as well as the possibility of reducing muscular tension.
When it comes to age-related memory loss stress can be an enormous factor, as it increases a damaging hormone in the brain known as cortisol. Cortisol has actually been dubbed the “stress hormone.” An experiment done at Loma Linda University in California, where three groups of elderly patients were asked to take a test measuring various facets of their memory was recently orchestrated. Two of the groups watched a humorous video before taking the examination, while the third group did not. The two groups who viewed the comedic compilation illustrated a significant increase in memory recall and learning ability, as well as a major decrease in cortisol levels.
Another study was also done in Switzerland, where comedic films were shown to a group of people who had their hands immersed in ice water. Those who found the films to be laugh-out-loud funny were able to deal with the discomfort considerably longer than those who did not, and the increased tolerance to pain continued to linger for almost a half hour afterwards. Although laughter appears to show positive effects on both mental and physical discomfort, according to Professor Willibald Ruch from Zurich University, it cannot be feigned. Only genuine joy can produce the chemical and cognitive processes needed to generate true results. Many researches believe that some form of laughter therapy should be added to standard medical practice and could potentially prove to be very effective in the treatment of certain conditions.