Laughter is a great medicine. Like intense exercise, laughter increases brain levels of serotonin and endorphins that can calm and relax the mind. Every year there is more evidence that your thoughts, moods, emotions and belief systems have a fundamental impact on the body’s basic health and healing mechanisms. Candice Pert in her book, The Molecules of Emotions, found that emotions are registered and stored in the body in the form of chemical messages. Better understanding the interaction between emotions and these chemical messages are the key to maintaining a strong health connection between the body and the mind. It is through the emotions you experience in connection with your thoughts and daily attitudes, through the neurochemical changes that accompany these emotions, that your mind acquires the power to influence whether you get sick or remain well.
Reduction of stress hormones
When you’re under stress, your body undergoes a series of hormonal and other body changes which make up the “fight or flight” response. Even though there’s no physical threat to your life, your body reacts as if there were. If you’re under stress day after day, this preparation for a vigorous physical response (which never happens) begins to pose a threat to your health. Anything, which can reduce the level of stress hormones in the blood on a regular basis, helps reduce this threat. The limited research on stress related hormones and humour has shown that laughter reduces at least four neuroendocrine hormones associated with the stress response including adrenaline, cortisol, dopac and growth hormone.
Norman Cousins drew the attention of the medical community to the pain reducing power of humour in his book, Anatomy of an Illness. Norman had a spinal disease that left him in constant pain. But he quickly discovered while watching comedy films that belly laughter eased his pain. In his last book, Head First, The Biology of Hope, he noted that 10 minutes of belly laughter would give him two hours of pain free sleep. Over a dozen studies have now confirmed that humour does have the power to reduce pain in many patients. “ The chemicals that are running our body and our brain are the same chemicals that are involved in emotion. And that says to me that we’d better pay more attention to emotions with respect to our health. “ Candice Pert- Molecules of Emotion
Even more interesting is the fact that even if you pretend laughing or act happiness, your body produces happy chemicals. The brain does not know the difference!