Monday, April 29, 2013

Mirthful Laughter and Cortisol Levels

What have studies shown about the effect of mirthful laughter on cortisol (a steroid hormone also known as hydrocortisone)? This substance is produced by the adrenal cortex and is released to help the brain and body respond to stressors. While cortisol is critically important to your ability to manage stressors appropriately, too much cortisol can be detrimental. For example, cortisol temporarily suppresses immune system function to allow resources to be directed toward dealing with the stressors. Cortisol also increases your level of blood sugar and assists with fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism (to give you more energy). Problems can arise, however, when your adrenals are pushed to release high levels of cortisol due to chronic or unmanaged stressors. That can result in increased risk of illness (due to suppressed immune system functions), decreased formation of bone tissue, and even muscle wasting. If you are dealing with chronic stress, create and implement solid stress-management techniques. Mirthful laughter is one of these. Experimental subjects who viewed a 60 minute humor video (and who chose to have a mirthful laughter experience) were found to have a reduction in serum levels of cortisol. This means you can have some control over your neurobiochemistry.

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