Laughter is Medicine - Literally!

We’ve always heard that laughter is the best medicine, but now we have the science to back it up.

Laughter is the best medicine | Perform Health & Wellness

Researchers out of the University of Oxford and University of Turku (in Finland) have confirmed that social laughter releases opioids in the brain. These naturally occuring painkillers are just like the feel good chemicals released from exercise and sex. They promote feelings of relaxation, safety, and social bonding.

It gets better. Not only does laughter make you feel good, but it relieves pain too. The research confirms that opioids released by social laughter not only promote positive feelings and social bonding but it also increase pain tolerance. After viewing just 15 minutes of funny TV clips or watching a live comedy show study participants were able to hold wall or keep an uncomfortable frozen sleeve on their arm for a whole 10% longer!

The effects of comedy, however, only worked in the social setting. We are 30 times more likely to laugh in the presence of others than we are to laugh alone. When viewing the video clips alone participants laughed a just a fraction of the time and didn’t experience the opioid release that the social viewers got. Interesting also is that people with more opioid receptors actually laughed more, suggesting that the structure of our opioid system may relate to individual differences in social behavior.

The takeaway? Laughter really is the best medicine

The rate of opioid use and abuse in the USA is staggering. the CDC reports that in 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills. But the laughter research shows us that

instead of reaching for those pills to make us feel better we can tap into our own natural painkillers simply by laughing with friends.

So although it may seem like this research is simply confirming the obvious (haven’t we all heard the saying before?) for me as a wellness practitioner it is a very important reminder that we as a culture need to take laughter seriously. So go put the research to work and put aside time each day to share a laugh with the people you care for. The science confirms what we’ve always intuitively known; laughter will make you feel better.

Movement is Health,
Dr. Christian Barney D.C., D.A.B.C.O., C.C.S.P., ART

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