It may seem like a no-brainer to say that laughter makes you feel good. And that when you're happy, you just might come out with a chortle, giggle, guffaw or horse laugh. Yep, it's all ridiculously simple. Any chuckle-head can figure this out.
But laughter is more complicated than you may think.
Just ask the researchers who've immersed themselves in gelotology. That's the physiological study of laughter. There's a breed of scientists who are very serious about what makes people laugh, and what happens to them when they do.
Psychoneuroimmunology is described in an article on the Neuroscience for Kids website as a combination of psychology, neuroscience and immunology.
It explores how the brain and immune system interact, and studies how stress impacts illness and the nervous system.
Stress hormones and neurotransmitter levels and aspects of the autonomic nervous system are affected by laughter. Levels of catecholomaines, cortisol and growth hormone decrease after an hour of laughing at a video.
A wave of electricity washes over your entire cerebral cortex four-tenths of a second after you hear something funny and before you laugh, Psychology Today says.
John Morreall, president of HUMORWORKS Seminars in Tampa, Florida, reports that laughter causes relaxation, with a greater than normal drop in blood pressure and heart rate. Laughing triggers endorphins which are natural painkillers as well.
Lee Berk and Stanley Tan, both of the Loma Linda School of Medicine, in Loma Linda, California, found in research that the immune system's T lymphocytes and natural killer cells are activated, boosting the body’s ability to fight infection.
Laughter boosts gamma interferon production, which enhances the immune system. Immune cell production is amped up. Greater stress can cause a reduced immune response. Stress hormone cortisol decreases, protecting immune response.
Muscles in your face and body are stretched, breathing is faster resulting in an intake of more oxygen. Dr. William F. Fry, a professor of Psychology at Stanford University, California, and a pioneer in the study of laughter, did an experiment on himself.