A new study out of Oxford University suggests that laughter can trigger the release of endorphins, the brain chemical that can make you feel good, distract you from pain and deliver other health benefits. In the study, participants watched sitcoms or stand up comedy, either alone or with others, and were then subjected to pain threshold tests like wearing an ice-cold sleeve around their arm. Those who had laughed out loud with others for 15 minutes experienced a 10 percent increase in their pain threshold.
What’s the Big Idea?
Laughing is an energetic activity that “stirs up all of our physiological systems. . .involving strong vocalization, an increase in heart rate and blood pressure and muscle contractions all over the body,” says Robert Provine, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Laughter also serves an important social function: bringing people together as a community. Evolutionary biologists say the sound of laughter comes from the “huh-huh” sound heard during the rough-and-tumble play of primates.