Walking through the wild side of town yesterday I took a short cut through a back alley. There I was confronted by a shady looking character who whispered to me: “Hey man, wanna get high? I got some really good stuff. You’re gonna love my punchlines. C’mon, I got all the funny you need - jokes, riddles, cartoons, one liners. Wrap your laughing gear around some of my amusing anecdotes and hilarious witticisms, my friend, and you will be on a humour high that will have your nucleus accumbens jumpin’ for joy!”

This guy was obviously acquainted with the research of Dr. Allan Reiss, director of the Stanford Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory. Reiss and his colleagues were the first to discover that the part of the brain that responds to the enjoyment of humour is the same reward centre that responds to the pleasure of drugs such as methamphetamines and cocaine. No wonder people love to laugh!

Reiss conducted an experiment in which he monitored brain activity in a group of volunteers while they viewed a series of cartoons. The funnier a volunteer found a certain cartoon the more activation there was in the part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) which is brain's reward centre.

The NAcc lights up when we yuk it up because the laughter, just like cocaine, stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine which in turn switches on our reward centre. Dopamine is also triggered by other delightful experiences. That feeling of pleasure you get when we receive a gift, see someone we find attractive, or win a chunk of money - that's good old dopamine activating our brain's nucleus accumbens.

The great news is that anyone can develop the skills that enable us to trigger our reward centres by using our readily available ability to enjoy laughter. I say this without any hesitation because over the last thirty years I’ve taught these skills to thousands of people through my talks and workshops and I’ve seen the happy transformations that take place.

I recommend you make laughter your drug of choice. It’s fun, always delivered in a safe dose, has only positive side effects, is legal, and it's completely free. Laughter truly is it’s own reward!

 Jest Wishes, Anthony

Anthony Ackroyd CEO (Chief Enjoyment Officer), The Laughter Advantage