Turns out laughter really is the best medicine. Particularly when it's of the belly-laugh variety, the kind that produces brain waves akin to levels seen in people who reach "a true state of meditation."
But to achieve the health effects of laughter, a mere chuckle won't do. In fact, for their study, researchers were able to pinpoint a figure for the optimal laugh: a 30-40 hertz frequency, the same brain wave frequencies seen among people who reach what's considered the "true state of meditation."
For their research, scientists measured brain activity from nine cerebral cortex scalp areas in 31 participants. What they found was that humor engaged the whole brain, including the entire gamma wave range frequency.
"When there is mirthful laughter, it's as if the brain gets a workout because the gamma wave band is in synch with multiple other areas that are in the same 30-40 hertz frequency," explained study co-author Lee Berk.
"This allows for the subjective feeling states of being able to think more clearly and have more integrative thoughts. This is of great value to individuals who need or want to revisit, reorganize, or rearrange various aspects of their lives or experiences, to make them feel whole or more focused."
The findings were presented at an Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego over the weekend.
Laughter was also shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to lead to a number of chronic health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
After being shown a funny 20-minute video that induced laughter, the participants scored higher scores on memory tests compared to the control group which wasn't shown the video. Likewise, researchers found a significant decrease in cortisol levels among video-watchers.
"It's simple, the less stress you have the better your memory," Berk said.
Want to put the theory to the test? Make a concerted effort to make laughter a part of your daily routine, either by sharing a good chuckle with family and friends over a joke, or watching a funny video or comedy.
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