Why laughing is healthy
Can watching a funny cat video at work actually improve your productivity?
A study presented at this year’s annual Experimental Biology conference finds that when people laugh, their brains are activated in the same way as when people are mindfully meditating.
The study, from researchers at Loma Linda University, measured the brain activity of 31 people when they watched a funny video and again when they watched a stressful video. Researchers measured activity in nine parts of the brain. What they noted was that during the funny videos, the viewers actually activated their entire brains, with high gamma wave activity, as measured by electroencephalography, or EEG.
EEG measures electrical activity along the scalp. “The electrical activity translates to neuroactivity,” said the lead researcher, Dr. Lee Berk. Gamma wave activity is associated with increased dopamine levels and putting the brain’s cognitive state at its most alert level.
Berk explained, “What we know is that gamma is found in every part of the brain and that it helps generate recall and reorganization.” That’s why, he said, after people meditate, they feel refreshed and are better positioned to solve problems.
Not only can laughing help increase your awareness, Berk thinks it is likely to have the health benefits of meditation, like reducing stress, blood pressure and pain.
Berk acknowledges that more research is needed about how laughing can actually benefit our health, but he is optimistic about an area of science that shows real correlation between the mind and body. “We are looking at the keyhole in the door – and the light is bright on the other side,” he said.
The bottom line, he says: “Humor is evidenced to have a therapeutic value.”
So next time your boss catches you watching a funny cat video, just tell her that you’re trying to be more productive.