I've been investigating effects of the release of endorphins in the brain that result in an analgesic. Regarding this biochemical process, through my research I have deduced two analogies: one of baseball and one of an ice cream cone. In baseball, the team and fans are happiest when the pitcher makes excellent throws that result in strikes; on the other hand, balls high over the catcher's mitt and in the dirt may get the pitcher pulled and booed.
When a kid orders an ice cream cone, the waffle cone is open to his favorite flavor, say good old plain chocolate; however, if the scooper mistakenly fills the cone with one of the flavors on either side of chocolate, perhaps espresso bean or chocolate with peanut butter, at best the kid will be unhappy, and at worst, he will need an EPI pen.
In both of these, there is a transmitter and a receptor: The transmitters are the pitcher and the scooper, leaving the catcher and the cone as the receptors. At the most basic level, this is how the brain transmits chemicals to opioid receptors in the brain.
What goes between these transmitters and receptors determines the level of human happiness and comfort. In a perfect world, opioid receptors wait for delivery of happy natural opiates, like uplifting endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Perfect pitches and chocolate ice cream.
Enter life. When humans are thrown a curve ball, the transmitters start throwing stress and pain at the receptors. Pitches in the dirt and espresso bean ice cream. Then the body tries to produce chemicals to offset the bad stuff, but it can't always keep up. At times like this, a bump-up in endorphins creates an analgesic, aka... pain relief. Enter laughter. It's like a natural endorphin pump filling those receptors and blocking the yuck.
The crazy-ass thing about this is that when pain and stress rear their nasty heads, to laugh is one of the last emotions that happens naturally. I think to some degree there is an association of guilt with laughing when life deals out the dark stuff. After all, what is there to laugh about in times like this? In fact, it's precisely the time to throw the best pitch and the perfect scoop into the opioid receptors. I truly hope the following might give you at least a giggle, plus a little surge in endorphins.
During chemo eight years ago, I remember a few times when humor rocked our family. I scooped some of these moments up in a short piece called Impersonations. This still makes me laugh aloud when I read it.
During that same time, I borrowed several DVDs from a friend's library -- all comedies. They were on hand in case I needed pure escapism at 2:00 a.m. when the steroids were keeping me awake. If you have 90 minutes to tickle your funny bone, these are a couple comedies that have left our family in stitches this summer:
The Secondhand Lions - In short, hilarious shenanigans between two eccentric uncles and their great nephew.
The Sandlot - Witty, gritty young boys living and breathing baseball in an empty lot next door to an enormous furry "beast."
Finally, this month I'm dedicating "P.S." below to Laughter -- maybe a photo, a story, or a one-liner that gave me a laugh, giggle, chortle, or belly laugh -- accompanied by snorts -- will do the same for you.
And sometimes, there is simply no harm in laughing at yourself. So, I leave you with this photo which was taken between workouts: Before I had gone on a long walk... and just after I had pulled on a crossback bra. Here's the story: The Commonality between Cat's Cradle and Crossback Bras.