Does laughing really help develop emotional resilience and help people overcome fear? Some initial medical findings. By Dr. David Wilkinson
In this next series of articles I will be reviewing the evidence behind the hypothesis or assertion that humour or laughter helps to develop emotional resilience and overcome fear. In this, store click the first in the series I will review the medical evidence about laughing and the effect it has on the body.
As mentioned in the blog entry (http://www.fearcourse.com/blog/archives/65.html) Norman Cousins writing in his book ‘Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient’ in 1979 stated that laughing at Marx brothers films helped him control pain, sovaldi sale make his illness better / manageable and helped with his stress levels. In the book he stated “Laughter is an antidote to apprehension and panic. It creates a mood in which the other positive emotions can be put to work too. When you laugh you are more likely to see the bright side of a situation and have a more positive outlook, cialis sales which ultimately promotes healing.”
Extraordinary claims are frequently made for laughter therapy such as in this article “Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.”
The question is, are the claims true? Does laughter / humour really help develop emotional resilience, control pain and help us overcome fear?
In a Russian study published in 2005 it was found that laughing at a funny film does indeed cause concentrations of cortisol, a stress hormone, to drop during the film and for some time afterwards. However other hormones were unaffected.
However a study published in 2006 by Berk et al from Linda University, Loma Linda, California, found that anticipating what they called “mirthful laughter” reduces cortisol levels and increases both beta-endorphins (part of a family of hormones that reduce depression) and HGH, a human growth hormone which helps our immune system.
A further study with a control group published by Berk et al in 2008 reported that anticipation of mirthful laughter reduced the levels of three stress hormones. Cortisol; known as the stress hormone; epinephrine or adrenaline, and dopac, a dopamine catabolite. This is brain chemical which helps produce epinephrine, were reduced 39, 70 and 38 percent, respectively. These figures are statistically significant when compared to the control group who were not told they would be watching the funny movie.
The upshot of this is that anticipation of humour appears to be every bit as important as actually laughing for reducing stress and boosting our immune system. Laughter certainly helps to reduce stress, this is boosted further if we know we are about to have a good (fun) time. Which is interesting and important, as most of the fear we experience is actually anticipatory. Quite often in reports and fear therapy the role of anticipation is forgotten. In a future article I will show you some research I have been involved in about the power of anticipation and projection in fear experiences.
This still leaves a question: Does repeated anticipation and laughter actually help develop or build up emotional resilience and help us overcome fear? This is different to just the reduction of stress, which the above reported studies have shown.
In my next article I will examine if there is evidence to support the assertion that laughter and the anticipation of mirthful laughter can actually help develop emotional resilience and help people overcome fear.
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