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Watching sad movies can be just what the doctor ordered. A new study shows that watching distressing movies may boost our tolerance to pain. Researchers at Oxford University say that emotional movies can increase the amount of endorphins released by the brain. These are our body's natural painkillers - chemicals that relieve physical or psychological pain. Dr Robin Dunbar explained that: "The emotional [distress] you get from tragedy triggers the endorphin system….The same areas in the brain that deal with physical pain also handle psychological pain."
Dr Dunbar and his colleagues conducted tests to find out the effect tragic stories have on us. One group of people in their experiment watched a traumatic drama about a disabled man battling homelessness, drugs and alcohol. Another group watched a film on Britain's geology and archaeology. On average, the pain tolerance of those who watched the drama increased by 13.1 per cent, while the pain threshold for those who watched the documentary decreased by 4.6 per cent. Dr Dunbar suggested one reason we like to watch sad movies is the natural high from the endorphins.
Back to the painkillers lesson.