Make Just One Someone Happyby Jon Schwartz October 24, 2016
As I was about to leave Seacrest for the day, I passed through the dining room during dinner and noticed from a distance a table of about eight residents in a complete uproar of laughter. Seeing their jubilation made me smile and laugh. I was late for dinner plans with friends, so unfortunately did not get the chance to stop by and find out what was so funny.
During my drive, I wondered if my group of friends in our late 20s and early 30s could laugh as much or as hard as the octogenarians I had just witnessed. I tried to think of a few funny stories on the way. I came up with two ideas that seemed funny to me, but when I tried them out at dinner, the only person who laughed was my wife (and I’m certain that was only out of pity). Despite my best efforts, the night did still consist of laughter, no thanks to me, and nothing quite like what I saw in the dining room at Seacrest that night.
Sometime later, I watched a recorded lecutre from the Stein Institute for Research and Aging on the health benefits of laughter and chocolate. Dr. Lee Berk of Loma Linda University discussed his nearly three decades of research on laughter. By the end of the lecture, Dr. Berk challenges audiences to “be the reason someone smiles today.”
I think this is perhaps the most kind thing one person can do for another, because science has proven that laughter produces incredible health benefits.
“We now have the evidence laughter not only decreases the detrimental stress hormones, in particular cortisol, but increases the good neuropeptides called endorphins,” Dr. Berk said in the Stein lecture.
From a physical standpoint, frequent laughter boosts immunity, decreases pain, lowers blood pressure and prevents heart disease. From an emotional standpoint, frequent laughter has been shown to enhance resilience, ease anxiety and fear, and improve overall mood. From a social point of view, frequent laughter strengthens relationships, attracts others to us and enhances teamwork.
Laughter and humor also have positive effects on the brain. Laughter has been shown to enhance memory and recall. Laughter enhances sensory awareness, lowers the occurance of depression and increases cognitive processing. Laughter simply makes one’s brain work better, at any age.
Interestingly, Dr. Lee also discussed dark chocolate and the similar health benefits it has to laughter. A study published in Nature Neuroscience in 2014 showed that the flavonoids in dark chocolate increased blood flow to the hippocampus, the memory area of the brain. The participants in the study (all between the ages of 50-69) showed a stronger memory and ability to differentiate visual patterns than those in the non-chocolate eating group. The study also found that only 900 milligrams, less than a little square from a bar, will provide all the benefits you need, but the chocolate must contain more than 65 percent cacao. Consuming this type of chocolate can also reduce the bad LDL cholesterol and the risk of blood clots. Eating dark chocolate has also been shown to improve serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain (which puts us in a better mood), reduce heart attack, stroke and can also have positive impacts on insulin control.
Often, healthy habits seem to come at a high cost. The choice between eating a salad vs. snacking on potato chips. The choice between going for exercise vs. lounging on your favorite couch. But chocolate and laughter? It’s hard to imagine that the costs could ever outway the rewards when it comes to these two supplements.