Laugh Away the Pain? It’s Evolutionary.

Once upon a time, Charlie Chaplin said, "Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain." Last week, The New York Times agreed. The reported on a recent study which found that,"laughing increased pain resistance." In this story, the science of modern times sides with the clown. The Oxford study also suggests that laughter has provided primates with an age-old evolutionary advantage.

Oxford evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar concluded that laughter triggers endorphins that allowed test subjects to resist pain longer. Test subjects watched a variety of video. Some subjects watched "The Simpsons," Eddie Izzard routines, and other comedy clips. Other participants watched  footage considered feel-good without being funny, like nature programs. Others  were subjected to boring- er- 'neutral' golf and pet training videos. All participants were monitored for laughter during the shows. The participants who laughed proved better able to withstand pain resistance tests adminstered after watching the videos. Another experiment, conducted live at an Oxford Imps improv show, supported the findings that laughter eases pain. 

The study reports that laughter, not just a general sense of well being, is key to the endorphin response and pain relief. Dr. Dunbar hypothesizes that laughter has been key to the social evolution of primates. Like singing, dancing, and other physical activities, shared laughter strengthens group bonds. A laugh today may play tonic to your pain, and shared giggling echoes age-old evolutionary rewards. I think may be time to rewatch Charlie Chaplin…

Dunbar's study was published in the proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences.

Laugh it up!

Alicia

Laugh and Eat Chocolate! It’s Good for Your Heart!

Chocolate Any fool knows that laughing and eating chocolate will make you feel good. Now scholars agree too! Let's sing it from the rooftops! (And support it with peer-reviewed science!) "EAT CHOCOLATE AND BE MERRY! Your heart will thank you!"

As explored in blogs past, laughing helps the heart. It reduces stress and increases healthy hormones in the same way exercise does. (Check out my blog entry 'How Many Chuckles = a Chinup?") Add to that happy science a recent study which discovered that habitual chocolate eaters showed a 37% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and 29% reduced risk of stroke.

It sounds too good to be true. No- this study was not sponsored by the Bay Area Hedonists Club. Scientists from the University of Cambridge announced the news at the European Society of Cardiology convention at the end of August. The respected British Medical Journal published the findings. Any google search yields pages of slavering support. It must be true! 

So, is "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" passé? Probably not. Researchers caution that there are plenty of unhealthy ingrediants in chocolate treats. Going hog wild with calorific chocolate pudding on a regular basis is more likely to damage your heart. However, 'plain' chocolate (the less added sugar the better) can be considered healthy. So relax, chuckle, and chew a little chocolate while savoring the concluding words of the University of Cambridge study:

"Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. Further experimental studies are required to confirm a potentially beneficial effect of chocolate consumption."

This fool may volunteer for the Cambridge crew's next experiment!

Of course, you all know by now that I'm on a refined-sugar-free diet, so I make most of my own chocolate, and I like to keep it all raw…  no cane sugar for me! I make it all with maple syrup or coconut palm sugar… I keep trying to make a stevia-sweetened chocolate… and keep failing..  But I digress…  

Ha ha ha! Hee hee hee! 

Alicia 

 

These be my sources, yo:

"Study: Laughter and Chocolate Can Boost Heart Health." Huffington Post. August 29, 2011.

"Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-anaylsis." British Medical Journal. August 29, 2011

20 sec. Hugs are Better Hugs (or, It’s Your Oxytocin)

Happy Hug Day (61) You can create a deep connection with a long hug. Of course. You know that. What you might not know? The amount of time matters. We're not talking about the half-second hug-cum-chest-bump.  Or the 5 second clench-to-coax. No, indeed! Apparently, a loving embrace held for 20 seconds taps our sweet spot. The folks at The Shift Network say that 20 seconds is the "magic" length needed to release oxytocin in the body.

News organizations from the BBC to USA Today have reported on the University of North Carolina's discovery that a longer hug reduced cortisol (stress hormone) and increased oxytocin in the couples studied. Oxytocin is the "bonding hormone" the inspires the feeling of meaningful connection with others. This happy hormone is also linked to reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. With whoever you are close to, try staying close longer with a 20 second hug. You may feel the difference. 

 

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Sources:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4131508.stm

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2003-03-09-hug-usat_x.htm

http://theshiftnetwork.com/tsn/main

How many chuckles = a chinup? (No joke!)

Laugh-with-abandon_14-things-adults-can-learn-from-children Growing evidence confirms suspicions that laughter is not only fun, but good for us!  WebMD reports that laughter and moderate exercise share a host of healthful effects. According to Dr. Lee Berk's research, appetite hormones behave the same way after a good giggle as they do after a few workout reps. In science-speak: leptin goes down and grehlin goes up. Berk's volunteers watched stressful videos and hilarious videos (in no particular order) while their hormones were monitored. The results show comedy may be good for more than a chuckle.

Berk hopes his findings can assist patients who have lost their appetite. The elderly, handicapped, depressed and ill might benefit from repetitive laughter research. Overachievers may well enjoy a chortle during exercise for added benefit. Though a small study, Berk's work joins other science in supporting laughter as good medicine. More conclusive work may cause this writer to re-evaluate the association between 'cackles' and 'evil'. What can't hurt may heal!

Wanna come try laughter yoga with me?

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The original study