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Humour us, we want to be healthy

It is found that people who look forward to watching a funny movie had remarkably high levels of endorphins -- the body?s natural pain killers.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 02:50 IST

It may not be the most spectacular breakthrough, but scientists have proved what everyone else takes for granted: laughter is good for you. And if your doctor always told you that watching a good comedy could be as effective an exercise as going for a run, it turns out that even the anticipation of watching it raises the levels of immune-boosting hormones in the blood, with the benefits lasting for hours. So smile away, and thank US researchers whose laughter studies confirm that even as a chuckle raises your spirits, it also lowers your blood pressure, thereby reducing stress hormones and boosting immune functions that help cell growth.

They reportedly found that people who look forward to watching a funny movie had remarkably high levels of endorphins-- the body’s natural pain killers-- and human growth hormone in their blood. This agrees with conventional medical wisdom: laughing relaxes muscles all over the body-- right from the scalp to the legs-- and exercises them. As you laugh, carbon dioxide is driven out of the body and is replaced by oxygen-rich air, which provides physical and mental freshness.

That said, however, there’s a gloomy take on this cheerful subject. Neuroscientists still have only a vague idea about what happens in our brain when we laugh, apart from the fact that the brain stem plays a major role. People who’ve suffered strokes in this primitive cerebral region are known to be prone to prolonged bouts of pathological laughter. Some anecephalic infants-- babies born missing their higher brain circuitry-- will, when tickled, make faces that appear to be smiles, suggesting the primitive brain’s involvement. The better we understand laughter, the more effectively we can deploy that smile or guffaw.

First Published: Apr 05, 2006 02:50 IST