Stress busting 'mirthful laughter'
Type of Spiritual Experience
We have a whole series of hormones that play a role in helping us with stressful situations – real fight or flight. But if they continue swishing round the system for any length of time they damage us and our health deteriorates. By laughing we help to dissipate these hormones. "Mirthful laughter " appears to reduce levels of cortisol, epinephrine, 3,4-dihydrophenylacetic acid (dopac)--the major serum neuronal catabolite of dopamine, and adrenaline, all of which can be harmful if they are not dissipated.
A description of the experience
Am J Med Sci. 1989 Dec;298(6):390-6. Neuroendocrine and stress hormone changes during mirthful laughter. Berk LS, Tan SA, Fry WF, Napier BJ, Lee JW, Hubbard RW, Lewis JE, Eby WC. Department of Pathology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, CA.
Positive emotional activities have been suggested as modifiers of neuroendocrine hormones involved in the classical stress response.
To detect changes in these components during a mirthful laughter experience, the authors studied 10 healthy male subjects. Five experimental subjects viewed a 60 minute humor video and five control subjects did not.
Serial blood samples were measured for corticotropin (ACTH), cortisol, beta-endorphin, 3,4-dihydrophenylacetic acid (dopac)--the major serum neuronal catabolite of dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, growth hormone, and prolactin. Repeated measures analysis of variance showed that cortisol and dopac in the experimental group decreased more rapidly from baseline than the control group (p = 0.011, p = 0.025, respectively). Epinephrine levels in the experimental group were significantly lower than the control at all time points (p = 0.017). Growth hormone levels in the experimental group significantly increased during baseline (p = 0.027) and then decreased with laughter intervention (p less than 0.0005), whereas, the controls did not change over time (p = 0.787). ACTH, beta-endorphin, prolactin, and norepinephrine levels did not significantly increase.
The mirthful laughter experience appears to reduce serum levels of cortisol, dopac, epinephrine, and growth hormone. These biochemical changes have implications for the reversal of the neuroendocrine and classical stress hormone response.