In my previous blog posts, I have discussed the many problems that are a consequence of living with chronic stress. So can the opposite sensation of happiness with laughter counteract the issues caused by chronic stress?
There are four main chemicals that have been noted to change levels when we are experiencing happiness;
1. Dopamine - these levels increase and affect your motivation & pleasure achieving goals.
2. Serotonin - increased levels ( many current antidepressants work by increasing serotonin levels)
3. Oxytocin - increased, also known as the 'cuddle hormone' as increased in intimacy and childbirth, breastfeeding and even hugging. Assists relationship bonding.
4. Endorphins -increased by laughter and, as with increased release in exercise, these assist with pain relief and reduction of anxiety and stress.
A review of studies in 2008 did conclude that laughter can cause an immediate increase in heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate, but then followed by an overall reduction of heart rate, blood pressure and increased muscle relaxation. This is the opposite of chronic stress effects.
Another study in 2016 recorded lower salivary cortisol levels ( remember higher cortisol levels are a marker of stress) in children on a paediatric ward who engaged in playful activities with clown doctors more.
Even the anticipation of laughter has been shown to reduce stress hormones.
Research is still ongoing, though, with the vast array of neurochemicals that exists and so this remains a complex area. Our voyage of discovery is still in the early stages, but the gathering evidence is really exciting and certainly leaning in the direction of some very positive and profound health effects from happiness and laughter.
However, in the interim, HAPPINESS is still probably the most FUN and side effect FREE MEDICINE out there! So what can you do, to tap into and unleash your own happiness more?
You can also read more in this abstract.