If you’re looking for an excuse to take in a comedy show with your friends, look no further. According to new research, the physical exertion of having a good belly laugh in the company of friends, as opposed to a polite titter, exhausts us so much we produce protective endorphins that raise our pain threshold and make us feel good.
British researchers found that when we laugh properly, we exhale repeatedly without drawing breath. This is an involuntary mechanism that appears to happen only in humans. This physical effort exhausts us and triggers the release of protective endorphins, which regulate pain and promote feelings of well-being.
The investigators found that watching just 15 minutes of comedy in the company of others increased the pain threshold by an average of about 10 percent. They say laughing with others seems to be more likely to produce this effect than laughing alone. They believe it is the “bonding effects of the endorphin rush that explain why laughter plays such an important role in our social lives.”
The authors of the study say the endorphin “rush” only seems to happen when we have a good belly laugh (one that creases the eyes, as opposed to polite laughter that does not reach the eyes), and when we share it with others. They suggest that the fact that only this type of laughter releases endorphins is because it probably evolved as a way of encouraging us to socialize with each other.