Rewire Your Happiness Circuitry: How Joy and Laughter Can Help You Prevent Cancer
Reduce your risk of cancer through laughter by Karolyn Gazella
Posted September 14, 2011
Recently, I adopted a puppy. She was found wandering the streets and she was extremely malnourished when she was brought to the shelter. Her devotion to food worked to my advantage during her training because no matter what I asked her to do, as long as there was food involved, she was a quick study. Yes I believe my little pooch also happens to be especially smart; however, she also has a system in her brain, just like you and I do, that naturally connects a positive feeling with behavior. She felt satisfied and joyful as she ate her yummy treat and couldn't wait to repeat the behavior to get that feeling again.
This is the mesolimbic pathway, a beautiful system in the brain that is associated with feelings of joy. This system directly links a reward with certain behaviors. Instantaneously and physiologically the neurotransmitter dopamine is released at the time of the behavior which reinforces a sense of pleasure and happiness. We remember that feeling and want to experience it again and again. As you may have guessed, it is the mesolimbic pathway that is so critically tied to addiction. Rewiring away from addiction can be complex and difficult. But what if we could use this innate, powerful circuitry to create more joy and happiness in our lives? In so doing, we would also be reducing our risk of developing cancer.
Many studies have demonstrated that people who feel happy are less likely to get cancer, and even if those people do get cancer, they are more likely to overcome their disease. That's because feeling joy affects us on a cellular level. The simple act of laughing, for example, stimulates key immune system cells, specifically natural killer cells. There is even a new area of study in the scientific literature called laughter therapy. Published clinical studies have shown that laughter therapy can help individuals suffering with pain, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and yes, even those diagnosed with cancer.
There are no clinical, double-blind, placebo controlled studies demonstrating that laughter can specifically help prevent cancer. However, I say no need to wait for scientific substantiation. Let's start rewiring right now. Watch funny videos, hang out with funny friends, laugh, play, and engage in joyful activities. And when you are done, do it all over again. Remember, it's the repetition that ensures proper rewiring and long-lasting benefits.