What makes you crack up laughing no matter what? For me, I really get a kick out of Jon Stewart’s political and social satire. For one of my friends, it’s those crazy cat videos on YouTube — even when she’s watching the same video again — for the 100th time. While I tend to be more of a dog person, how can I argue with her choice for laughter?
Improving our bone health (and more) certainly includes a prescription for fun and laughter. It’s well-known that chronic stress, excessive worry, and sustained fear create health issues — including the disruption of neuroendocrine functioning and weakening of bone. Numerous studies show that laughter helps to decrease stress, improve immune function and even reduce our response to pain.
More benefits of laughter
I just read a study comparing the physical response during a hearty chuckle to what happens during exercise. Researchers found people who belly-laughed at funny videos could tolerate pain more effectively than those who had watched a dry documentary. This reaction is likely due to an increase in the laughters’ pain-managing endorphins, which is the same response that occurs when we exercise.
Of course, we’ve all experienced the way sharing a good joke or being silly brings us together and strengthens our feelings of belonging and acceptance by others. What’s more, anthropologists continue to investigate how laughter has promoted human connection throughout our history and in different cultures today.
With all the clear benefits of laughter, I suggest we all be open to the possibilities of increasing opportunities for humor and joy in our lives. Here’s my prescription: Since you’re 30 times more likely to laugh in a social setting than alone, reach out now to friends, family or others and do or say something that makes you all laugh out loud — right now and often.
Dunbar, R.I.M., (2011). Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold. Proc. R. Soc. B 22 March 2012 vol. 279 no. 1731 1161-1167. Published online September 14, 2011 doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1373 http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/279/1731/1161 (accessed 11.26.12)
Provine, R. R., & Fischer, K. R. (1989). Laughing, smiling, and talking: Relation to sleeping and social context in humans. Ethology, 83(4), 295-305.