Have you ever left a funny conversation feeling better than ever? Have you ever felt a special bond with those who can easily make you laugh?
A recent New York Times article discussed why laughter feels so good, even if you laugh until your stomach hurts. Laughing causes the release of endorphins which is an opioid, or morphine-like chemical.
As a result of the release of endorphins, laughter acts as a “painkiller.” Recent studies show that humans have a higher pain tolerance for intense skiing workouts, an ever-tightening blood pressure cuff, or ice packs on the skin after laughing at either a stand-up comic, or a funny movie. “Feel –good” movies, or nice movies that do not make the viewer laugh, do not have the same pain-reducing effects.
So why, then, is laughter contagious? Laughter has been found to be a bonding activity, much like singing or dancing (which also trigger the release of endorphins). People feel connected when they laugh together, and, according to Dr. Dunbar, laughter was probably “an early mechanism to bond social groups.” That other primates, such as apes, bond over laughter (which sounds like a human pant) and the joint release of endorphins, adds validity to Dr. Dunbar’s theory.
So, do you think this study is convincing enough to get “funny movie” time before sports practice?