Yes, even looking forward to a happy, funny event increases endorphins and other relaxation-inducing hormones as well as decreases other detrimental stress hormones, a UC Irvine College of Medicine-led study has found.
In previous studies, the scientists found that anticipating a funny video reduced feelings of stress. This study found that those feelings have biological underpinnings and may help researchers combat the harmful effects of stress. The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Orlando, Florida.
Lee Berk, assistant professor of family medicine and a researcher at the Susan Samueli Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and his colleagues found that just anticipating a funny event reduced levels of stress-causing chemical messengers in the blood, and increased levels of chemicals known to reduce tension.
"Since chronic stress can suppress the immune system's ability to fight disease, reducing the effects of stress can help the body resist infections and other disorders," Berk said. "This study shows that even knowing you will be involved in a positive humorous event days in advance reduces levels of stress hormones in the blood and increases levels of chemicals known to aid relaxation. This has profound implications for complementary treatment of disease and for maintaining a person's wellness."
Berk and his colleagues tested 16 men at Loma Linda University. Half of them were informed three days in advance they would watch a humorous video. The men watching the video had a 39 percent decrease in cortisol, a 38 percent drop in dopac and a 70 percent drop in epinephrine, all of which are stress hormones. At the same time, endorphin levels rose 27 percent, and growth hormone levels rose 87 percent. Endorphins and growth hormones are known to reduce the effect
Contact: Andrew Porterfield
University of California - Irvine