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

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

The Yoga Mafia

EPL_Buzz_ The Yoga Mafia

Eighteen days ago I started taking a yoga course called the "40 Day Yoga Challenge: 40 Days to Personal Revolution." Basically, we're taking a yoga class every day for 40 days and slowly giving up our vices one by one through a series of torturous cranks of an external vice grip called "letting go" and a framework of weekly motivational classes. I took the course because I've been working so much on comedy and coaching… etc., that I've neglected to really give my physical health the attention it needs, and though I teach Laughter Yoga, I have never really taken yoga on, for reals.  And it's becoming clearer and clearer that to take things to the next level, my body needs to be in as great shape as the rest of my life.  

To tell you the truth, it's a little scary to walk into the yoga studio for the first time. I have an automatic resistance to the place because it's such a western manifestation of this ancient concept–the yoga clothes are expensive, the classes are not cheap either. It's not like India, so it must suck and be fake, right? My resistance rears its head first in me arriving to class six minutes late. The woman at the door smiles at me, but I'm imagining her yoga-cursing me in her head. What is a yoga curse? I dunno. Maybe it's like not saying "namaste" when you meet someone. Wah's melodic music is gently wafting through the otherwise silent studio and everyone has already got their butts in the air for downward dog. People have to get up and move their mats for me to fit in, I'm knocking water bottles over. I'm trying to hold the poses and falling onto my mat in a quivering heap of exhaustion. It's like a scene out of Mr. Bean. I'm "projecting" the yoga mafia in my headall over the place, thinking the teacher thinks I'm an undisciplined fink who doesn't respect the class. I'm thinking the skinny, bendy ladies in the class who all seem to be wearing giant diamond rings are all laughing at how un-bendy I am. And where are all the men in yoga? Not that I'm looking for one in particular, I'm just wondering where are they?  Do they have their own yoga classes behind some secret wall?  Are they all at the naked male yogaclasses in San Francisco, which actually exist?

Fast-forward 18 days. I'm actually arriving early to class, mat in hand, and something has shifted. I've taken to closing my eyes as much as possible–it's way easier to hold an asana when I'm not worrying about how much betterthe lady to my right is at it. It's actually kind of amazing, too–I'm actually able to DO yoga. The other day I got my ankle over my head. No kidding. I actually could do that before, so it didn't happen in two weeks. Reminds me of the joke: "Doc, my wrist!" "We'll have to operate." "But will I be able to play the piano afterward?" "Yes." "Wow, that's amazing, because I don't know how now!"

Want to watch my progress? I've been putting 30 second updates on Youtube about it every other day.  Here's to fit spiritual condition and awesome abs.

Om,

Alicia
Making Light

Fake it till You Make It (Laughing, That Is)

 

IStock_000002713101XSmall You and I both know how good it feels to really let go and laugh.

 The science behind that feel-good feeling it isn’t all that complex. The human body releases endorphins in the act of laughter, and those endorphins relieve stress. It is a natural physiological responseTurns out, the body has no way of knowing if your laughter is genuine, or if you’re a big faker.


A study done way back in 2003 documented its participants' emotional state after 60 seconds of "real" laughter and then compared it to 60 seconds of "faked" laughter. Turns out that both kinds of laughter have the same affect on the body. Check it out:  http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/03/31/1048962698891.html

So… If the human body has no way of knowing if the laughter is genuine you can reap all the same benefits by faking it. Fake laughter turns into real laughter in my Laughter Yoga class all the time.  Go ahead, just try it. 

 

Laughter + IVF = Babies

ClownLaughter yoga, it's not quite…

So a study of a couple hundred women undergoing IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) near Tel Aviv found that women entertained by professional Israeli clowns right after embryos were transferred to their wombs had more success in giving birth than those with no Israeli clowns.

The study, published in Fertility and Sterility, found that 36 percent of women with Israeli clowns became pregnant, as compared with the 20 percent of clown-free embryo transfer procedure.   Not surprisingly, women conceiving the conventional way were found to have a much lower success rate with Israeli clowns in their room at the time of conception.  I'm just saying… 

Leader of the study, Dr. Friedler said he got the idea for the study because laughter is a "natural anti-stress mechanism."

Friedler, who is based at Assaf Harofeh Medical Centre in Zrifin, Israel, said,"Patients suffering from infertility undergoing IVF are incredibly stressed. So I thought that this intervention could be beneficial for them at the crucial moments after embryo transfer."

Friedler added that if studies at other centres back up his findings, fertility clinics elsewhere might try it too.  I'm just hoping I'm fertile enough to keep the clowns out of my own uterine activities.  Do you think clowns that speak Hebrew are funnier than French or English ones?

Is your laugh genuine or strategic?

Did you know we've been laughing for 7 million years?

The Quarter Review of Biology recently published a study on laughter.  There are two kinds.  (Of course, Osho wrote about four kinds, so science is still lagging behind on this front…)

Thee first kind of laughter is a) spontaneous and b) stimulus-driven.  The study says that just because someone is laughing with you, doesn’t mean that it is spontaneous or stimulus-driven, which is the natural kind of laugh that mirrors ape play, which arose around seven million years ago.

The second, “dark side of laughter” kind of laugh is strategic and sometimes can be cruel. "One type of laughter arises spontaneously from the perception of a certain class of events, while the other is used strategically in interaction to influence others or modulate one's own physiology," said Gervais, who is a researcher in the Evolutionary Studies Program at Binghamton University in New York.  Here's where I read the article.

In laughter yoga, I aim for my laughter to always be the first kind of laughter.  But I don't think this study gets at the whole picture.  Laughter needs to be practiced to become part of one's life if it's been missing for a long time.  That's why in laughter yoga, we encourage one another to laugh, through exercises designed to create that spontaneous first kind of laughter.  Don't feel discouraged if it takes time to remember how to laugh spontaneously.  It's still a practice for me.  I'm even starting to laugh at standup comedy again after years of training myself to slap the table with a straight face and say in a deadpan tone, "That's funny."  But it takes practice.

So come practice.  Come take a laughter yoga class with me.  Or come see a standup comedy show!

-Alicia

Osho Speaks about Laughter (part 6 of 6)

“There is a Cosmic laughter which comes into being when the whole joke of this Cosmos is understood. That is of the highest. And only a Buddha can laugh like that. These three monks must have been three Buddhas. But if you can laugh the second type of laughter, that is also worth trying. Avoid the first. Don’t laugh at anyone’s expense. That is ugly and violent. If you want to laugh, then laugh at yourself.

That’s why Mulla Nasruddin, in all his jokes and stories, always proves himself the stupid one, never anybody else. He always laughs at himself and allows you to laugh at him. He never puts anybody else in the situation of being foolish. Sufis say that Mulla Nasrudin is the wise fool. Learn at least that much – the second laughter.

If you can learn the second, then the third will not be far ahead. Soon you will reach the third. But leave the first type. That laughter is degrading. But almost ninety-nine percent of your laughter is of the first type. Much courage is needed to laugh at oneself. Much confidence is needed to laugh at oneself. 

For the spiritual seeker, even laughter should become a part of Sadhana. Remember to avoid the first type of laughter. Remember to laugh the second. And remember to reach the third.”

Thank you, Osho.  Om.

Osho Speaks about Laughter (part 5)

[Finishing the story from the last blog] "So for the first time, the two monks spoke and said, ’We are laughing because this man has won. We were always wondering as to who would die first and this man has defeated us. We are laughing at our defeat and his victory. Also he lived with us for many years and we laughed together and we enjoyed each other’s togetherness, presence. There can be no better way of giving him the last send off. We can only laugh.

But the whole village was sad. And when the dead monk's body was put on the funeral pyre, then the village realized that the remaining two monks were not the only ones who were joking, the third who was dead was also laughing. He had asked his companions not to change his clothes. It was conventional that when a man died they changed his dress and gave a bath to the body. So the third monk had said, 'Don’t give me a bath because I have never been unclean. So much laughter has been in my life that no impurity can accumulate, can come to me. I have not gathered any dust.

Laughter is always young and fresh. So don’t give me a bath and don’t change my clothes.' 

"So just to respect his wishes, they did not change his clothes. And when the body was put to fire, suddenly they became aware that he had hidden some Chinese fire-works under his clothes and they had started going off. So the whole village laughed and the other two monks said: You rascal, you are dead, but you have defeated us once again. Your laughter is the last.'"

The last post on Osho tomorrow.

Osho Speaks about Laughter (part 4)

"The second type of laughter is when you laugh at yourself. This is worth achieving. This is cultured. And this man is valuable who can laugh at himself. He has risen above vulgarity. He has risen above lowly instincts – hatred, aggression, violence.

And the third is the last – the highest. This is not about anybody – neither the other nor oneself. The third is just Cosmic. You laugh at the whole situation as it is. The whole situation, as it is, is absurd – no purpose in the future, no beginning in the beginning. The whole situation of Existence is such that if you can see the Whole – such a great infinite vastness moving toward no fixed purpose, no goal – laughter will arise. So much is going on without leading anywhere; nobody is there in the past to create it; nobody is there in the end to finish it. 

Such is whole Cosmos – moving so beautifully, so systematically, so rationally. If you can see this whole Cosmos, then a laughter is inevitable. 

[A story] "I have heard about three monks. No names are mentioned, because they never disclosed their names to anybody. They never answered anything. In China, they are simply known as the three laughing monks.

And they did only one thing: they would enter a village, stand in the market place and start laughing. They would laugh with their whole being and suddenly people would become aware. Then others would also get the infection and a crowd would gather. The whole crowd would start laughing just because of them. What was happening? The whole town would get involved. Then they would move to another town. "They were loved very much. That was their only sermon, their only message; that laugh. And they would not teach; they would simply create a situation.

Then it happened that they became famous all over the country. Three laughing monks. All of China loved them, respected them. Nobody had ever preached in such a way that life must be just a laughter and nothing else. They were not laughing at anyone in particular. They were simply laughing as if they had understood the Cosmic joke. And they spread so much joy all over China without using a single word. People would ask for their names, but they would simply laugh. So that became their name – the three laughing monks.

Then they grew old. And while staying in one village. one of the three monks died. The whole village became very much expectant because they thought that when one of them had died, the other two would surely weep. This must be worth seeing because no one had ever seen these people weeping. The whole village gathered. But the two monks were standing beside the corpse of the third and laughing – such a belly laugh. So the villagers asked them to explain this."

Come back tomorrow for the end of Osho's story!