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?

__
The original study

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

Ending World War Through Laughter

Babylaughing

 I came across a little blurb in the New York Times a couple of years ago that intrigued me, and I clipped out… I started using it as a bookmark and it would pop up at various times when it seemed coincidentally apropot.  Here is the gist… it’s, well, possible end to the world war… So Yoki Kamuar of Kansai University (Osaka, Japan) believes he might have the answer to ending world war. It’s simple, healthy doses of laughter.

Yoki, an expert in communications, has invented a machine that charts laughter in a unit of “aH”.  He says adults tend to calculate weather it’s appropriate to laugh and in a sense forget how to do it.  Children, on the other hand, laugh more freely and put out almost double “aH’ measures. Yoki Kamura’s goal is to measure laughter and to make the measuring device as small as a mobile phone and sell it as a health and amusement device.  He wants to use this new information to “shift from a century of wars to a century of humor and tolerance.”

I wonder what would happen if we actually started recommending a certain aH for people?  If we had a government-suggested Recommended Daily Dose of Laughter?  Vitamin A 20 mg, Vitamin B 30 mg, Vitamin L 50 aH…

At the doctor’s office, along with weighing you, taking your blood pressure and temperature, they could also measure your aH!

Doctor to man in office, “Ok John, turn your head and laugh.”

I wonder if they laugh much at terrorist meetings…  I’d like to see what a couple of Marx Brothers movies would do to their vengeance level.

So I’m going to find one of these machines and get my laughter up to the RDDL to end some world war here.  You in?

No Laughter Yoga for Fido.

Dog-bedThink us humans are the only ones who need comedy in our lives?  Turns out animals have neural circuits for laughter in the ancient parts of the brain, that predate even the existence of humans! There was laughter even before there was people.

Recent studies are debunking the theory that animals don't feel joy or sorrow.  "Indeed, neural circuits for laughter exist in very ancient regions of the brain, and ancestral forms of play and laughter existed in other animals eons before we humans came along with our 'ha-ha-has' and verbal repartee," says Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Bowling Green State University.

A recent study suggests that animals from rats to monkeys partake in joy and laughter that very much resembles a humans joy and laughter. Monkeys chase each other and pant in ways that resemble a humans laugh, even rats, as they play chirp in ways that resemble our very own giggles.  They actually found that–no joke–rats might be into Sid Caesar.

"Although no one has investigated the possibility of rat humor, if it exists, it is likely to be heavily laced with slapstick," Panksepp figures. "Even if adult rodents have no well-developed cognitive sense of humor, young rats have a marvelous sense of fun."

Panksepp says more studies need to be conducted in order to really tell if these behaviors are truly an animal's way of expressing laughter, but laughter could be a deep seeded brian function that not only exists in humans, but in the animals around us as well.

So, no need to take your dog to laughter yoga with you, he's already laughing at you–I mean, with you.