Pain can make you grumpy and sour moods can downward spiral creating situations where you seem to feel worse inside and out. However, scientists have studied the power of laughter and the effect on your pain and social bonding. According to psychologist Robin Dunbar’s research from Oxford University, laughter is more than a brain response and the actual physical act of laughing has great benefits. James Gorman’s article from September 2011 in the NY Times states: “The simple muscular exertions involved in producing the familiar ha, ha, ha, trigger an increase in endorphins, the brain chemicals known for their feel-good effect.”
To test the correlation of laughter to pain resistance, Dr. Dunbar conducted a series of six experiments. In five of the experiments, participants watched excerpts of comedy videos, neutral videos or videos intended to promote good feeling but not specifically laughter. According to the NY Times article, “In the lab experiments, the participants were tested before and after seeing different combinations of videos. They suffered the frozen wine sleeve or the blood pressure cuff in different experiments and were asked to say when the pain reached a point they could not stand. They wore recorders during the videos so that the time they spent laughing could be established. In the one real-world experiment, similar tests were conducted at performances of an improvisational comedy group, the Oxford Imps.”
The experiments found that laughing increased pain resistance; however, simple good feeling in a group setting did not. The NY Times article stated, “Dr. Dunbar thinks laughter may have been favored by evolution because it helped bring human groups together, the way other activities like dancing and singing do. Those activities also produce endorphins, he said, and physical activity is important in them as well. ‘Laughter is an early mechanism to bond social groups,’ he said. ‘Primates use it.’” Since Dr. Dunbar associated laughter to group bonding like dancing, exercise your human animal instincts and continue to sing, dance and laugh out loud for better health and pain management.
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