Please pardon me for using "Humor" and "Laughter" interchangeably. I know that there are lots of laugh therapies that get your body to experience the benefits of laughter without the whole humor thing, but since I'm a humor writer, that's where my heart and soul live: Humor = Laughter.
Laughter - Can it Raise Our Threshold for Pain?
A study was done at the University of Oxford and published September 2011 in the journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. During the tests, participants had their arms wrapped in either a frozen wine-cooler sleeve or a blood pressure cuff until they couldn't stand the pain. (I hope they got an AppleBee's gift card or something.) Then they were shown videos--TV clips from sitcoms. Then they were tested again. On average, watching 15 minutes of comedy in a group increased their pain thresholds by 10 percent. (Clearly they weren't watching reruns of Full House which I personally find excruciating... But my kids love them.)
"The researchers believe that the long series of exhalations that accompany true laughter cause physical exhaustion of the abdominal muscles and, in turn, trigger endorphin release. (Endorphin release is usually caused by physical activity, like exercise, or touch, like massage.)"
Stress relief from laughter? It's no joke
When it comes to relieving stress, more giggles and guffaws are just what the doctor ordered. Here's why.
Whether you're guffawing at a sitcom on TV or quietly giggling at a newspaper cartoon, laughing does you good. Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that's no joke.
Stress relief from laughter
A good sense of humor can't cure all ailments, but data is mounting about the positive things laughter can do.
A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:
- Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
- Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
- Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Laughter isn't just a quick pick-me-up, though. It's also good for you over the long term. Laughter may:
- Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
- Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
- Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
- Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.
Work has been done for decades on the medicinal benefits of laughter for patients dealing with cancer, heart issues, AIDS, depression etc by Norman Cousins, Dr.William F. Fry, Dr. Lee Berk, Dr. Hunter (Patch) Adams, Dr. Annette Goodheart, and Dr. Madan Kataria. More about Laughter Therapy as Stress Relief at: https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/therapeutic-laughter.html