As it turns out, researchers have observed that positive emotions influence endocrinological and immunological responses. In other words, experiencing stressful emotions, such as anger, depression, anxiety, or a state of unworthiness, has the potential to actually pull the genetic trigger, dysregulating cells and creating disease.
In 2005, a group of Japanese researchers conducted a study to examine what effect one's mental state might have on disease. The participants consisted of two groups of patients with type 2 diabetes, all of whom were dependent on insulin, a hormone that enables glucose to enter cells to be used as energy.
Fasting blood-sugar levels for each group was determined to establish a baseline. The researchers then exposed one of the groups to a comedy show for an hour, while the control group watched a boring lecture. Afterwards, both groups were instructed to consume food, after which their blood-sugar levels were checked again.
Of the groups, there was a significant difference between those who watched the comedy show compared to those who viewed the lecture. The researchers measured the blood-sugar levels of those who watched the lecture and observed an average of 123 mg/dl - high enough that they would be required to take insulin. In the group that watched the comedy show, their postprandial blood-sugar levels rose only about half of that amount.
The researchers set out to examine the mechanism for why this may be occurring. Initially, they hypothesized that the group experiencing laughter resulting in more time contracting their diaphragm and abdominal muscles, expending more energy, therefore resulting in the lower blood-glucose levels.
Upon greater examination, the researchers analyzed the changes in expression of 18,716 genes from blood cells in the patients with type 2 diabetes, which were induced by laughter. Of the 18,716 genes, 23 genes showed significantly different expression changes after listening to the comic story compared to the boring lecture. Eight were relatively upregulated and 15 were downregulated 1.5 hours after the laughter occurred. As it turns out, of the group that experienced laughter, their elevated mental states apparently triggered their brains to send new chemical signals to their cells, activating the genetic sequences to allow their bodies to naturally begin regulating the genes responsible for processing blood sugar.
In sum, the researchers demonstrated simply signaling the body with a positive emotion, such as laughter, is linked to gene expression. Emotions are capable of altering body chemistry and signaling new genes, altering their internal environment. And remember, we can create an emotion by thought alone.
Hayashi, T., Urayama, O., Kawai, K., Hayashi, K., Iwanaga, S., Ohta, M., Saito, T. and Murakami, K. (2005). Laughter Regulates Gene Expression in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 75(1), pp.62-65. https://doi.org/10.1159/000089228
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