Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Prescription: Ridiculousness


We have all heard that "laughter is the best medicine," but is this just an old-wives tale? Is this a way to get people who are feeling crappy to just clam up and find the fun in life again? Well, a scientific study was done and the answer is no. Laughter, at least, those really deep, hearty, uncontrollable belly laughs actually have a physical affect on how we feel pain!

The Science Says So
 
In an article I read yesterday on BBC America, the results of an experiment conducted at the University of Oxford were discussed. The experiment was conducted as follows:
The experimenters first tested the pain thresholds of volunteers.
They were then split into two groups, with one being shown 15 minutes of comedy videos, while the other was shown material the researchers deemed boring - such as golfing programmes.
The researchers found that those subjects that had recently experienced belly laughs were able to withstand up to 10% more pain than they had done before watching the videos.
To their surprise, the scientists also found that the other group was less able to bear pain after watching 15 minutes of the "boring" programmes.
So the question must be asked: Is 10% less pain really all that much? The scientists admitted that there was no way to determine that (in an audio clip accompanying the article) since it would depend on each person's experience, but I can say, personally ANY decrease in pain is a positive in my book!

Learn How to Laugh First
 
If you are like me and you're thinking, Where can I get my next dose of laughter?! AND NOW?! Hang on for just one more second, because this isn't just any old giggle you need to muster up. For the endorphins to get flowing we need to laugh in a way that, it seems, only humans can (I didn't know that!). Here's the type of laugh you are looking for according to The University of Oxford's Media page:
The research paper makes an important distinction between relaxed, unforced laughter that creases the eyes, and polite laughter which does not reach the eyes. It concludes that when we laugh properly we produce a series of exhalations without drawing breath, an involuntary physical mechanism that is limited to humans and appears to trigger the release of endorphins. Laughter is important to other great apes too but they breathe in as well as out when they laugh, unlike humans.
How to Find the Most Effective Laughs
 
Last step now... How do we get that laugh? Believe it or not, it looks like these wonderful people at Oxford made some discoveries in that arena as well!
  1. You are more likely to experience uncontrollable laughter in a group setting. So grab your friends and family for a laugh party!
  2. Slapstick and sitcom comedy has a greater effect than more cerebral comedy. The study noted Mr. Bean and Friends as examples of programming that yielded good results.

 My Favorite Thing


What intrigues me most about this entire finding is that it was not conducted by medical professionals looking to find non-pharmaceutical treatments for their patients. Nope, this study of society and culture was to, "explore the role of laughter in the establishment of human societies two million years ago." Well, all I can say to that is - thank goodness Professor Dunbar and his team at Oxford University remain curious! In my humble opinion, curiosity is, by far, one of the most powerful characteristics held by living beings.


OK people - what do you have for me? 
Give me your funniest suggestions!
We need to compile a list of the things that get us to that deep guffaw-like laugh no we can laugh our pains away!

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