Professor extols the physical and mental benefits of laughter on History Channel
It’s not the comedy station, but laughing was prominently featured on a recent History Channel television episode of “Weird U.S.”—and so was a Loma Linda University faculty member and his expertise on the subject.
The hosts of “Weird U.S.” travel the country reporting on unusual people, places, practices, and events. Their recent episode “Weird Medicine” showcased the history of Americans’ attempts to stay healthy in novel ways—whether through yogurt enemas or through the claims of medical quacks.
Their journey led them all over the country, from medical museums to laughter clubs—organizations that exist to improve people’s physical and mental health through getting them giggling. To explore the merit of these clubs, the hosts turned to Loma Linda University’s Lee Berk for some help on the science of hysterics.
The hosts learned from Dr. Berk, DrPH—who is a renowned researcher in positive emotions and psychoneuroimmunology and an associate professor in both the School of Public Health and an associate research professor in the School of Medicine—that laughter has been shown to reduce chronic stress hormone release, lower high blood pressure, improve mood, and enhance the immune system.
“We have a pharmacy that sits on our shoulders; it’s our head,” Dr. Berk said on the show. “It may appear to be silly, but it’s good, true medicine.”
Dr. Berk pointed out that the idea of laughter as a health benefit goes back to the Old Testament of the Bible. He quoted Proverbs 17:22, which says, “A merry heart doeth good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.”
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