Want the potential mental and physical health benefits of meditation without the work of chasing away all those intrusive thoughts and feelings? Try laughing, a new study suggests.

Laughter – the real kind associated with genuine joy and mirth – sets off brain wave patterns quite similar to those generated when experienced meditators ply their mindfulness skills, a new study finds.

Researchers know that when hooked up to an electroencephalograph, which measures electrical activity among neurons in the brain, those practiced in the art of meditation are able to achieve a brain state of what is called gamma brain wave activity: In it, virtually all of the brain’s higher cortical regions begin to operate on a common frequency, somewhere in the 30- to 40-hertz bandwidth. It’s the brain wave pattern associated with cognitive “flow,” with being “in the zone,” with the highest state of cognitive processing.

And the gamma brain wave state is as pleasurable as it is powerful: The neurochemical dopamine, the fuel of the brain’s reward circuitry, flows freely when gamma waves prevail. That makes gamma, once experienced, a state we want to return to again and again.

The research was presented in San Diego this week by Dr. Lee Berk, a psychosomatic medicine specialist at Loma Linda University’s School of Medicine.