There’s no medicine more natural than laughter, and according to a new study from the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford, laughter really does have an effect on our health—specifically our tolerance to pain. For the study, researchers exposed volunteers to clips of either comedy shows or non-humorous programs (such as golf or nature documentaries) while measuring the viewers’ tolerance to pain—in this case doled out as a deep-frozen wine-cooler sleeve fitted around the viewers’ arms. While the non-humorous shows offered no pain relief, the researchers found that just 15 minutes of genuine laughter increased the comedy-show-watching volunteers’ pain tolerance by 10 percent.
The key, researchers say, is genuine laughter—think unforced, eye-crinkling, deep belly laughs, not polite tittering. Genuine laughter releases endorphins, which can dull feelings of physical pain and psychological stress. Scientists believe that when we laugh involuntarily, key muscles are exerted repeatedly to make us exhale without taking additional breaths, leaving us exhausted and triggering the release of endorphins.
So do something that makes you laugh today! After all, laughter is the best medicine.