We all know that laughing makes us feel good, but research has never shown exactly how this happens or how laughter fights pain, which it definitely can. An interesting investigation from England has demonstrated that the physical act of laughing - the actual muscle contractions involved - lead to the release of "feel good" endorphins, the same brain chemicals responsible for the runner's "high." Endorphins are also known to influence our perception of pain. Researchers at Oxford University studied reactions to pain both before and after bouts of laughter. Participants agreed to the use of a freezing sleeve slipped over their forearms, a blood pressure cuff that kept tightening and an uncomfortable ski exercise while they watched comedy videos, as well as some videos that weren't funny at all. The results of five sets of studies were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences and confirmed that laughter activates the release of endorphins. The results also indicated that pain thresholds were significantly higher in participants after laughter than in members of control groups who watched factual videos instead of funny ones.
My take? The findings from this study are important. The results help us better understand something we've long observed and that earlier studies have shown: laughter can influence health by relieving pain, lowering stress and even helping protect against heart disease. When you're stressed, nothing works better to counter it than a first-class belly laugh. I recommend seeking out laughter whenever you're stressed or feeling down. Call your funniest friend, rent a video comedy or you can try Laughter Yoga (seriously, there are more than 6,000 clubs in 60 countries). Bottom line: lighten up and laugh! It's good for you.