How laughter helps your brain
Laughter may really be the best medicine, especially when it comes to your brain. Researchers believe they may have discovered a link between humor and short-term memory in older adults.
In a recent small study, 20 healthy seniors were analyzed as they watched a comedic video for 20 minutes. For comparison, a control group of seniors sat calmly with no video for the same period of time. Both groups were then given memory tests and asked to provide saliva samples, which the researchers examined for stress hormones.
The seniors who had watched the funny video scored much higher on the short-term memory tests when compared to the control group. Additionally, those who got to laugh for 20 minutes had significantly lower levels of the hormone cortisol, which is typically associated with stress.
The study authors explain that laughter triggers the body to release more endorphins, which helps to lower your blood pressure, increase your mood state and reduce stress hormones. And the less stress you have, the researchers said, the better your memory and recall.
“Learning ability and delayed recall become more challenging as we age,” said lead study author Dr. Gurinder Bains, in a news release. “Laughing with friends or even watching 20 minutes of humor on TV, as I do daily, helps me cope with my daily stressors.”
Previous studies have tied chronic stress to high blood pressure, sleeplessness, headaches and depression, to name a few. So learning how to manage your stress may be one of the best things you can do for your heath, says Dr. Allison Benthal, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group in Libertyville, Ill.
“If you’re overwhelmed or in a negative mood, try to find a healthy outlet,” says Dr. Benthal. “Whether that’s watching a funny YouTube video, mediating, playing sports or visiting with friends and family; find a release for your stress that works for you.”
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