Laughter, Stress & Your Brain

Stress is a the topic of the day on most health blogs, as today’s 24/7 constant connectivity society is seemingly wreaking havoc on our bodies and brains. Most of my clients say they don’t have ‘any extra time’ in the day, they are already over-scheduled, and they don’t get  as much sleep as they would like.

Stress isn’t just the inability to cope; it’s also your sympathetic nervous system and the fight or flight mode that keeps you going through busy days, weeks, months, and years! If you burn the candle at both ends, the biochemical wheels in your body must turn quickly to keep up with the high demands of your life.

So, what can you do to offset the stress on your body and improve your productivity at work, in the gym, and at home? Laugh!

Would you believe the latest and greatest research coming out shows that this cheap and cheerful method of de-stressing the body really does have merit. A recent study at Loma Linda University by Dr. Gurinder Bains MD found that people watching a funny video for 30 minutes performed better on memory tests. A keynote symptom of elevated cortisol levels is poor short-term memory, as cortisol damages the hippocampus area of your brain, where you convert short-term to long-term memory. Laughter seems to be a powerful method for reducing cortisol stress hormones.

The benefits of laughing don’t end there. A study of nursing students showed laughing – one hour sessions twice weekly - improved sleep quality, symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved their social function. Pretty impressive findings!

Heart rate variability (HRV) is growing in popularity as a means to measure your total stress load. A novel new study in patients awaiting organ transplant surgeries found that 20-minutes of laughing, ten total sessions over a 4-week period, improved mood and increased HRV. Considering the degree of stress experienced by patients awaiting life-saving surgery, these findings are quite significant and the authors concluded they warrant much further investigation.

Improve your stress levels and brain health by scheduling time for more laughing in your day. Laugh with friends, laugh with colleagues, laugh with family… it’s not only good for your mood, it’s great for your health!

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CSCS