Laughing with friends for around 15 minutes boosts a person’s pain threshold by an average of 10%, an international study has found.
A research team led by evolutionary anthropologists from Oxford University in the UK has concluded that the endorphins released by a big belly laugh in a social setting can make pain more bearable.
Noting that previous studies had found laughter was more likely when in a group than when alone, the researchers conducted experiments where groups of participants watched comedy clips, including Mr Bean, or live comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A control group was shown factual videos like golf tournament footage.
After viewing, the participants were given pain tolerance tests such as seeing how long they could withstand cold, a tight blood pressure cuff or do strenuous exercise.
“We tested the hypothesis that social laughter elevates pain thresholds both in the laboratory and under naturalistic conditions. In both cases, the results confirmed that when laughter is elicited, pain thresholds are significantly increased, whereas when subjects watched something that does not naturally elicit laughter, pain thresholds do not change (and are often lower),” the researchers wrote in their paper, which was titled “Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold” and published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
“These results can best be explained by the action of endorphins released by laughter.”
I wish I had time to blog and expand on this, and I don’t.
Here are 5 great articles in this week’s news about Laughter Yoga:
“Laughter” yoga no joke. This one comes from Florida and has a video. Teacher Pat Conklin takes laughter seriously. “I’d forgotten how to laugh, pretty much forgotten how to laugh.” She used to be a stressed out grant writer dealing with chronic pain and depression. “Laughter Yoga took me out of that deep dark place, to a much more hopeful, positive, optimistic place and it brought joy back into my life.”
The pursuit of happiness. This is about “DIY Happiness”, a series of eight workshops for 320 women from different 20 boroughs of London, England. When it comes to promoting wellbeing and mental health, a holistic approach can often be more beneficial than ‘treating’ individuals.
Laughter therapy is no joke. Whoever said laughter is the best medicine was on the right track. The nurses and caregivers at the Matlosana Hospice and Khaya Tshepo Paediatric Palliative, a day-care centre in Klerksdorp (South Africa), cannot start the day without a big belly laugh. “We have seen tremendous change in many caregivers who do the laughter [therapy]. Unlike the others, it is immediate, it works much faster to create a dramatic increase in happiness, and it is the caregivers themselves who run it,” Jaffer said.
(book) The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. Schwartz, a UCLA psychiatrist and expert on treating patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), teams up with Begley, a Wall Street Journal science columnist, to explore the mind/brain dichotomy and to discuss the science behind new treatments being developed for a host of brain dysfunctions.
(book) Brain Fitness Robert Goldman holds a Ph.D. in steroid biochemistry, founded the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and is an adviser to the Journal of Longevity Research. In Brain Fitness, he makes a valid point that’s been proven by recent studies: your brainpower, like the muscles of your body, can be expanded through exercise. And with the life expectancy of humans nearly doubling in the past century, he says, paying attention to your cognitive skills and taking steps to ward off Alzheimer’s is becoming more and more vital.
(book) Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises. Keep Your Brain Alive presents the first brain exercise program scientifically based on the adult brain’s ability to produce its own natural brain food. Developed by a leading neurological research scientist and the author of “60 Ways to Relieve Stress in 60 Seconds,” the program offers 83 simple “neurobic” exercises designed to fight off the effects of mental aging by helping to prevent memory loss and increase mental fitness.
(book) Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat. Dosa, a geriatrician with a strong aversion to cats, tells the endearing story of Oscar the cat, the aloof resident at a nursing home who only spends time with people who are about to die. Despite hearing numerous stories about Oscar’s uncanny ability to predict when a patient’s time is nearing, Dosa, ever the scientist, remains skeptical. Slowly, he starts to concede that there may be something special about Oscar. Dosa starts to pay more attention to the cat’s decidedly odd behavior, noticing that Oscar seeks out the dying, snuggles with the patient and family members until the patient passes; with others, he smells the patient’s feet, sits outside a closed door until admitted, or refuses to leave a dying patient’s bed. Dosa discovers how powerfully Oscar’s mere presence reassures frightened or grieving family. Ultimately, the good doctor realizes that it doesn’t matter where Oscar’s gift comes from; it’s the comfort he brings that’s important. This touching and engaging book is a must-read for more than just cat lovers; anyone who enjoys a well-written and compelling story will find much to admire in its unlikely hero.
(book) Reversing Memory Loss: Proven Methods for Regaining, Stengthening, and Preserving Your Memory, Featuring the Latest Research and Treaments. Written with warmth and clarity, this book belongs in the hands of anyone who has agonized over an aging friend or relative or worries about his own capacity to remember. No physical problem is as destructive or frightening as the loss of memory. Stress, pain, depression, overmedication, stroke, or Alzheimer’s disease — these are just some of the causes. In this fully revised and updated book, an internationally known neurosurgeon and researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital outlines the latest treatments that help reverse memory loss: New forms of memory recently discovered by researchers, new tests to evaluate memory capacity, new research on the effects of prescription medications, including widely used antidepressants, and brain “poisons”, new research on the important role of nutrition and exercise in promoting memory, advances in early diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s, and promising new research on the regeneration of damaged brain cells.
(book) A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future (includes a full chapter on Laughter Yoga!) With visionary flare, Pink argues that business and everyday life will soon be dominated by right-brain thinkers. He identifies the roots and implications of transitioning from a society dominated by left-brain thinkers into something entirely different—although at times, he seems to be exhorting rather than observing the trend. As a narrator, Pink delivers in a well executed manner, with occasional hints of enthusiasm. He maintains a steady voice that is well suited for a business-oriented text, and his crisp pronunciation and consistent pace keeps listeners engaged and at ease.
(book) Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as you Negotiate. Fisher and Shapiro have structured this latest work around five key emotions which they identify as most critical to productive negotiations. Even though each situation has its own dynamics, they point to appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status, and role as the most important for making each party comfortable enough to grasp the principles of rationality that maximize the chances for a win-win result.
(book) Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter. More than IQ New York Times science writer Goleman argues that our emotions play a much greater role in thought, decision making and individual success than is commonly acknowledged. He defines “emotional intelligence” as a trait not measured by IQ tests, as a set of skills, including control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships.
(Book) 201 Icebreakers, Group Mixers, Warm-Ups, Energizers, and Playful Activities. Designed specifically for trainers, speakers, and group facilitators, this 400-page cookbook of playful group mixers helps to “break the ice” among participants at the beginning of any meeting, or to recharge participants on the brink of boredom. Complete with guidelines, these simple activities-like games, energizers, brain-teasers, and quizzes-require little or no preparation time, and most can be completed in less than 5 minutes. Also included are props and hand-outs that can be photocopied for the entire group to enjoy.
(book) Junkyard Sports. Junkyard Sports is a collection of activities students can play, and use to create their own sport from their experiences. Students can take previous sport knowledge, play with a different piece of equipment or “junk” within that game, and create a new sport. Every junkyard sport is a combination of rules from different sports, and another sport’s equipment or toy. Winning is not determined by points, but playing together is winning.
(book) Working With Groups to Enhance Relationships. This book offers 39 interactive activities to assist men and women in developing meaningful relationships. Each activity offers a safe environment for individuals to build communications skills, encourage cooperation, and rekindle companionship in their committed relationships. Believing each person is the expert in their own lives, the authors designed the exercises to build on each person’s life experiences. Individuals are asked to challenge their inner critical voices and to experience new and different ways of being, interacting, and communicating. They are empowered to make choices that match their intentions.
(book) Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious. Gigerenzer draws on his own research as well as that of other psychologists to show how even experts rely on intuition to shape their judgment, going so far as to ignore available data in order to make snap decisions. Sometimes, the solution to a complex problem can be boiled down to one easily recognized factor, he says, and the author uses case studies to show that the Take the Best approach often works.
(book) On Being Certain: Believing you are Right even when you’re not. In On Being Certain, neurologist Robert Burton shows that feeling certain—feeling that we know something— is a mental sensation, rather than evidence of fact. An increasing body of evidence suggests that feelings such as certainty stem from primitive areas of the brain and are independent of active, conscious reflection and reasoning. In other words, the feeling of knowing happens to us; we cannot make it happen. Bringing together cutting-edge neuroscience, experimental data, and fascinating anecdotes, Robert Burton explores the inconsistent and sometimes paradoxical relationship between our thoughts and what we actually know. Provocative and groundbreaking, On Being Certain challenges what we know (or think we know) about the mind, knowledge, and reason.
Laughter As Therapy
(book) Laughter Therapy: How To Laugh About Everything In Your Life That Isn’t Really Funny. Laughter Therapy is a two-part book. Part one is a theoretical framework for understanding laughter and other forms of catharsis. Included are case studies and examples of laughter. Part one and two are liberally sprinkled with appropriate quotes. Part two contains 25 ways to help yourself laugh and how to relearn to laugh without ridicule in order to maximize healing and connection with ourselves, each other and the universe.
Laughter & Children
(book) Kids Who Laugh : How to Develop Your Child’s Sense of Humor. This is an interesting, easy to read, informative book. Positive and full of good ideas. It dispels for once and for all the myth that some of us are born with a sense of humor and some are not. The author shows that this is not true. Everybody, especially kids, can learn to develop, and use, their sense of humor. Great examples and practices as well as interesting websites are chronicled. Exceptional children are also taken into consideration. As the author says, “exceptional kids like to laugh too.” Don’t we all.
(book) Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. The authors identify a five-step “emotion coaching” process to help teach children how to recognize and address their feelings, which includes becoming aware of the child’s emotions; recognizing that dealing with these emotions is an opportunity for intimacy; listening empathetically; helping the child label emotions; setting limits; and problem-solving.
(book) Authentic Happiness – Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. Thankfully, his lengthy homage to happiness may actually live up to the ambitious promise of its subtitle. Seligman doesn’t just preach the merits of happiness e.g., happy people are healthier, more productive and contentedly married than their unhappy counterparts but he also presents brief tests and even an interactive Web site (the launch date is set for mid-August) to help readers increase the happiness quotient in their own lives.
(book) Belly Laughter for Couples: The Belly Laughter Workbook. The Belly Laughter Workbook presents a valuable, positive message and shows readers how to practically integrate laughter into their relationships on a daily basis. Enda Junkins encourages couples to laugh together by using techniques which invite laughter into such issues as: Getting the love you need; Handling criticism; Avoiding the power struggle; Resolving conflict; Communicating more effectively; Dealing with serious issues. Through questions, exercises, and self-tests, readers learn how to laugh together and keep their relationships fun, healthy, and long lasting.
(book) Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. ”One of the most important books of the century–an absolute must-read for all persons interested in genuinely understanding and helping our fellow human beings.” —Dr. Robert H. Schuller, author of Tough Times Never Last,But Tough People Do
(book) Living with Enthusiasm: How the 21-Day Smile Diet Can Change Your Life. This book about giving yourself permission to enjoy life right now instead of waiting for the vacation that’s still six months away. It’s about learning how to create joyful moments every day, even in difficult times – and more importantly that it is critical to your health that you do so. You’ll discover 21 days of inspiration, motivation, easy-to-do action steps and over 100 tips for staying enthusiastic every day including: The 16-Second Smile, The Ohhh Effect, Factor of Five, Just for Now, Act As If, and the Laughing Meditation.
(book) Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life. Known simply as “The Work,” Byron Katie’s methods are clean and straightforward. The basis is a series of four questions addressed to your own lists of written assumptions. Whether you’re angry with your boss, frustrated with your teen’s behavior, or appalled at the state of the world’s environment, Katie suggests you write down your most honest thoughts on the matter, and then begin the examination. Starting with, “Is it true?” and continuing with explorations of “Who would you be without that thought?” this method allows you to get through unhelpful preconceptions and find peace. An integral part of the process is “turning the thought around,” and at first this can seem like you’re simply blaming yourself for everything. Push a little harder, and you’ll find a very responsible acceptance of reality, beyond questions of fault and blame.
(book) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Mindset is “an established set of attitudes held by someone,” says the Oxford American Dictionary. It turns out, however, that a set of attitudes needn’t be so set, according to Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford. Dweck proposes that everyone has either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is one in which you view your talents and abilities as… well, fixed. In other words, you are who you are, your intelligence and talents are fixed, and your fate is to go through life avoiding challenge and failure. A growth mindset, on the other hand, is one in which you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress. Your fate is one of growth and opportunity. Which mindset do you possess? Dweck provides a checklist to assess yourself and shows how a particular mindset can affect all areas of your life, from business to sports and love. The good news, says Dweck, is that mindsets are not set: at any time, you can learn to use a growth mindset to achieve success and happiness. This is a serious, practical book. Dweck’s overall assertion that rigid thinking benefits no one, least of all yourself, and that a change of mind is always possible, is welcome.
(book) Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. According to distinguished journalist Geoff Colvin, both the hard work and natural talent camps are wrong. What really makes the difference is a highly specific kind of effort-“deliberate practice”-that few of us pursue when we’re practicing golf or piano or stockpicking. Based on scientific research, Talent is Overrated shares the secrets of extraordinary performance and shows how to apply these principles. It features the stories of people who achieved world-class greatness through deliberate practice-including Benjamin Franklin, comedian Chris Rock, football star Jerry Rice, and top CEOs Jeffrey Immelt and Steven Ballmer.
(book) Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic: Workbook (Treatments That Work). This workbook is a one-of-a-kind resource that has been recommended for use by public health services around the world. It allows you to work alongside your therapist to personalize your treatment strategy and learn recovery skills that are useful for a lifetime.
(book) Mind over Mood: Change how you Feel by Changing the Way You Think. Developed by two master clinicians with extensive experience in cognitive therapy treatment and training, this popular workbook shows readers how to improve their lives using cognitive therapy/m-/one of the most effective and widely practiced forms of psychotherapy. The book is designed to be used alone or in conjunction with professional treatment. Step-by-step worksheets teach specific skills that have helped thousands of people conquer depression, panic attacks, anxiety, anger, guilt, shame, low self-esteem, eating disorders, substance abuse and relationship problems. Readers learn to use mood questionnaires to identify, rate, and track changes in feelings; change the thoughts that contribute to problems; follow step-by-step strategies to improve moods; and take action to improve daily living and relationships. The book’s large-size format and lay-flat binding facilitate reading and writing ease.
(book) Principles and Practice of Stress Management. “This is the best single book published to date on stress management. It incorporates salient reviews of the literature as well as practical information for implementing these interventions. Not only are a wide variety of treatments considered, but there are chapters on their use in specific disorders…5 stars!”
(dvd) Stress – Portrait of a Killer. This DVD shows how animal and human bodies are affected by stress, the harm and dangers. The threats especially to the brain, cardiovascular system and chromosomes are emphasized. Pregnant mothers under stress can transmit stress hormones into the fetus whose nervous system changes and in adult life becomes more prone to stress, stress related diseases and depression. The information here is based mostly on a Stanford University professor’s study on baboons, who specializes in the neuropsychology of stress.(book) The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. Although the sheer size of this dense workbook might cause initial hyperventilation–280 full-size sheets of text–take heart (and a deep breath!): the many self-assessment tools and calming techniques presented in this fifth edition can help overcome anxiety and promote physical and emotional well-being.
(book) The 7 Aha’s of Highly Enlightened Souls. This little book strips away the illusions that surround the modern malaise we call stress. Then, in seven insights, it reminds us of the essence of all the different paths of spiritual wisdom.
(book) The Self Esteem Workbook. A host of dysfunctional and self-destructive patterns arise at minor and acute levels if an individual dislikes him- or herself. Despite the importance of self-esteem, surprisingly little attention has been focused on building it directly, until now. Designed in an easy-to-use format, The Self-Esteem Workbook presents a course in self-esteem based on new research and sound principles.
(book) When Panic Attacks: The New Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy that can Change Your Life. In When Panic Attacks, Dr. Burns teaches forty simple, effective techniques to help dispell fear. He also shares the latest research on the drugs commonly prescribed for anxiety and depression and explains why they may sometimes do more harm than good. This is not pop psychology but proven, fast-acting techniques that have been shown to be more effective than medications.
(book) Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. With wit, graceful writing, and a sprinkling of Far Side cartoons, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers makes understanding the science of stress an adventure in discovery. “This book is a primer about stress, stress-related disease, and the mechanisms of coping with stress. How is it that our bodies can adapt to some stressful emergencies, while other ones make us sick? Why are some of us especially vulnerable to stress-related diseases, and what does that have to do with our personalities?”
Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. Is it really the best medicine? Neurobiologist Robert R. Provine discovered that no scientist had ever looked into the weird, uncontrollable, and very human phenomenon of laughter, so he started off on his own. Laughter: A Scientific Investigation is his warm and–of course–funny report on how and why we giggle and snort with such regularity. Basing his views on field research conducted in a broad array of social situations (laughter being notoriously difficult to evoke in the laboratory), Provine posits that we use it as a universal, preverbal means of communication. Though animal research is controversial, it suggests that apes establish and maintain relationships using laughlike behavior, so it could be the missing link between animal communication and true language. He also explores instances in which we seem to laugh our way into and out of social situations, and includes a list of tips for keeping the laughs flowing. The irony of the scientific community not taking laughter seriously isn’t lost on Provine, and he takes every opportunity to remind his fellows that even the seemingly most trivial matters can hide the most profound truths. If that isn’t funny, what is?
Adelle and Bernard Becker will take a hearty belly laugh from laughter yoga over playing bingo any day. “The feeling of laughing is therapeutic,” said Adelle Becker, 87. “Laughing until your eyes water, it’s just fun being in a group, doing the same thing at the same time and just acting like kids when you are in your 80s.” The couple call themselves groupies of the activity and regularly participate at Weinberg Assisted Living facility in Deerfield. Continue reading →
Even when there’s nothing funny going on, and especially when she’s a little blue, Cheryl Oliver forces herself to laugh, subscribing to the notion that not only is laughter — even simulated laughter — an immediate mood-lifter. It is the best medicine there is. “Just smiling can change your chemistry and make you healthier,” Oliver says, “so imagine what laughter does for you.” A serious-minded civil/environmental engineer for 22 years, today Oliver is a certified Laughter Yoga leader and life coach, determined to spread the gospel of just how good an old-fashioned belly laugh makes one feel.
Dr Topher Stephenson, who specializes in physical medicine and runs the spine program at Mercy in Sacramento, has also become something of an adherent to a trend in integrative medicine known as laughter yoga, which promises to do for the psyche what bikram yoga does for muscles.
So he tells the group members to gird for a brief session of mirth. He has them extend an imaginary string across their mouths and says to raise it a bit and laugh.
“OK, that was a nice and easy warm-up,” Stephenson said. “I don’t want to hear belly laughs yet. Just keep your teeth closed and do two more.”
“Now, I want you to really let it rip, OK?”
Laughter reigned. The whole vibe of the room changed from sorrow to joy, at least for a minute. Everyone was smiling and chuckling after Stephenson finished and dismissed the group.
“This has really helped me,” said Haynes, who is unable to work because of a chronic back condition. “And it’s fun to do.”
Sure, a good belly laugh or two might temporarily distract chronic pain patients. But, skeptics might ask, what good could it really do?
Research looking at the connection between mind and body suggests that repeated doses of laughter can indeed lead to positive physical changes. Building on the lay research by 1970s best-selling author Norman Cousins, who eased his autoimmune disease by watching Candid Camera episodes, doctors at Loma Linda University in Southern California have documented the effects of laughter in double-blind studies.
In a paper presented at a meeting of the American Physiological Society in April, they found that the hormones beta-endorphins (which elevate mood) and human growth hormone (which builds immunity) increased significantly in patients exposed to “mirthful laughter”.
Another study by the same doctors found that laughter reduced three key stress hormones – cortisol, epinephrine and dopac by 38 per cent to 70 per cent.
Stephenson was won over even before he became familiar with the scientific literature. In a break before starting medical school in the late 1990s, he attended clown college (Mooseburger University in Oklahoma) and graduated with honours. Using his alter ego, Bobo Doodlemeyer, Stephenson started a clown care unit at the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital.
Bobo usually stays incognito as Stephenson goes about his day-to-day practice dealing with back and neck-pain patients. But the laughter remains part of his prescription.
“I’ve found humor is a good tool,” Stephenson says. “There are a whole lot of people with chronic pain who haven’t laughed in a long time.
“When you get down to it, laughter promotes all kinds of good endorphins, which helps reduce pains and promotes deep breathing. A lot of these folks who are hurt just don’t breathe well. Their breathing patter is (shallow). Laughter gives you little squirts of dopamine, the feel-good reward chemical in the brain.”