Laughing makes you healthier

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

laughing infant
Infants begin laughing regularly around 4 months of age.

Bad health is no laughing matter, but apparently good health is! A recent study found that laughter tickles not just our funny bone, but our whole brain, increasing alertness levels, reducing stress, and improving memory.

Researchers scanned the neuroactivity (brain activity) of 31 people as they watched a hilarious video, using electroencephalography (EEG) that measures electrical activity along the scalp. Then, they showed them a stressful video and compared the results.

Apparently, the funny videos stimulated lots of gamma waves, which are associated with extra alertness and high levels of dopamine – the pleasure chemical in our bodies. Also, the brain showed higher alert levels of cognition – conscious mental processes like thinking, learning, remembering, and understanding. Lead researcher Dr. Lee Berk explained, “What we know is that gamma is found in every part of the brain and that it helps generate recall and reorganization.”

Laughter also triggered health benefits similar to meditation, when people control their breathing and thoughts to experience mental clarity. For instance, people felt relaxed, energized, and could solve problems more easily. Even their physical body got a boost, with increased pain tolerance and good blood flow.

Although further studies are needed to explore how the mind can affect the body, Berk says, “We are looking at the keyhole in the door – and the light is bright on the other side.” He concludes that humor is indeed therapeutic – helpful in healing disease.

Featured image courtesy of Dennis Brekke on Flickr. Image of infant courtesy of Maurajbo on Wikipedia.