Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Laughter & Endorphins

It’s the holiday season and we are socially isolated due to the pandemic, yet we need social support to thrive.

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that make us feel good.  The word endorphin comes from a combination of endogenous (made within the body) and morphine (an opioid pain reliever).  When endorphins activate opioid receptors in our brain, we can feel less pain, lower stress levels, and increased wellness.  We can boost our endorphin levels with regular exercise, yoga, meditation, charitable giving, dark chocolate, spicy foods, and laugher.

Researchers used PET scans to examine baseline levels of endorphins in 12 healthy males (20-32 years old) after they spent 30 minutes alone.  They also measured their endorphin levels after the men spent 30 minutes watching laughter-inducing comedy clips with two close friends.  The social laughter experienced by the participants triggered endogenous opioid release and enhanced positive mood and feelings of amusement and calmness.  Earlier research cited in the study has shown that social laughter reduces the stress hormone cortisol and increases the activity of lymphocytes, which are the body’s natural killer cells in the immune system.

In our distanced world, one way to enjoy social laughter with your friends is to participate in a virtual watch party.  The resources below outline some of the watch party options.

Takeaway: Host a virtual watch party with your friends to encourage social laughter and an endorphin boost.


Jennifer Berry, Effects and How to Increase Levels, Medical News Today, Feb. 6, 2018,

Sandra Manninen, Lauri Tuominen, Robin I. Dunbar, Tomi Karjalainen, Jussi Hirvonen, Eveliina Arponen, Riitta Hari, Iiro P. Jääskeläinen, Mikko Sams and Lauri Nummenmaa, Social Laugher Triggered Endogenous Opioid Release in Humans, Journal of Neuroscience, June 21, 2017,

Petrana Radulovic, The Eight Best Ways to Host a Remote Watch Night for the Holidays, Polygon, Dec. 8, 2020,

Boone Ashworth, How to Host a Virtual Watch Party, Wired, Sept 29, 2020,

Betsey Guzior, Media Monday: Let’s Watch TV Together, BizWomen, Oct 12, 2020,

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