Laughter therapies sound like a native term in the medical arena. Well, a team of scientists from the University of Oxford has put forth that when we laugh our heart out instead of just some polite chuckles, it may help in managing pain.
The physical exertion that the body gets exposed to while laughing out loud helps in the release of beneficial endorphins. The latter are known to regulate pain and instill positive feelings in individuals. The investigators believe that watching just 15 minutes of humorous sequences with everyone seemed to boost the pain threshold by nearly 10%.
This study discloses the positive effects of socializing in a way. Many initial trials have shown that this type of laughter appears to be 30 folds likelier if we are with others rather than being alone. The endorphin rush takes place due to a good belly laugh enjoyed with others. The authors have noted an important difference between natural laughter that wrinkles the eyes and the polite laughter which has no effect on the eyes. The analysts reveal that when we laugh thoroughly, it creates a cascade of exhalations and may stimulate the release of endorphins.
As part of the study, participants were told to view videos or live shows and their pain thresholds were calculated using different methods. The clips shown were of comedies like Mr. Bean and Friends along with simple shows like golf techniques or factual programs that supposedly invoke neutral responses. They were also made to watch nature clippings with a view of imbibing a sense of well-being in them. These apparently did not raise the pain threshold unlike the golf instructions. This implied that the endorphin-activating influences of laughter itself could have done the trick rather than the positive emotions.
Lead author Professor Robin Dunbar, Head of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford, commented, “Very little research has been done into why we laugh and what role it plays in society. Using microphones, we were able to record each of the participants and found that in a comedy show, they laughed for about a third of the time, and their pain tolerance rose as a consequence. We think that it is the bonding effects of the endorphin rush that explain why laughter plays such an important role in our social lives.”
In a subsequent trial, experts compared the pain thresholds of persons who had been to a stand-up comedy at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and those who witnessed staged plays. The outcomes showed that shared laughter seemingly gave rise to pain tolerance effects that are seen not just in a lab but also in daily life activities. Other areas such as dancing, rites, rituals, and music could also help produce feelings of euphoria which have been implicated in the secretion of endorphins too.
The study is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.