From such a young age, we learn the process of laughing. At first, we do this spontaneously, and later learn to channel this into feelings, mainly of joy and happiness. Instinctively we know and have heard the saying that laughter is one of the best medicines, and we know we feel good when we do it – but what does it really mean to laugh?
Laughter is sometimes thought of as an audible expression or appearance of excitement, an inward feeling of happiness and glee, which resonates outwards. This article is written to promote reasons to laugh and delves into the science behind how laughter really does assist the body and the mind in running at its peak. Below are eight different ways in which laughter supports the body and the mind;
When you laugh, the feeling you feel triggers a chemical reaction in your brain, which releases small proteins called neuropeptides. These tiny parts of the body support your immune tolerance and may help fight potentially serious illnesses.
Laughter improves your ingestion of oxygen, which in turn stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles.
Laughing further releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals our bodies produce to make us feel happy and even relieve pain or stress.
Studies have gone so far as to say that Laughter can promote a good night's sleep – wouldn’t that be wonderful! Laughter boosts the production of melatonin, the hormone in charge of your sleep-wake cycle. They say a good giggle can reduce stress and anxiety, making it easier to wind down and drift off.
Laughter also assists human beings in forming social bonds. The endorphin release as described above explains why laughter in a social setting is so contagious. Spreading endorphins through social groups promotes a sense of togetherness and safety. It’s like a game of endorphin dominoes. That’s why when someone starts laughing, others will laugh even if they’re not sure what everyone is laughing about.
Laughter promotes brain connectivity. Not all laughter is the same. Some are joyous, and some taunting and even tickling laughter are different and stem from different areas in the brain. It seems laughter promotes rigorous brain-region connectivity that kicks in when we hear a laugh, as our brains work to decipher what sort of communication is coming through.
Laughter protects your heart. Research has shown that laughter has an anti-inflammatory effect that protects blood vessels and heart muscles from the damaging effects of cardiovascular disease. How this happens isn't entirely understood, but it seems related to lessening the body’s stress response, which is directly linked to increased inflammation. Regular, hearty laughter should probably be part of every heart disease prevention program.
Laughter is central to relationships. A study showed that women laughed about 126% more than their male counterparts, while men seem to instigate laughter the most—and there’s an interesting application of those results to how relationships form and are maintained. Women typically rate a sense of humour as a top-three trait for a potential match. Men tend to rate women who laugh a lot (i.e. laugh at their jokes) higher than those who don't. It's no surprise, then, that couples who laugh together report having higher-quality relationships.
Statistically, it is said that children can laugh more than 300 times a day – however, the same study showed that adults laugh less than 20 times a day. At QHC, the best way we can interact with our clients is to show up, spread positive energy and even laugh a little. As we know – a little bit of laughter goes a long way.
Looking for a quick fix of laughter? Try any of the following:
Laughter Yoga, or Laughter Therapy. This type of yoga is based on the belief that voluntary laughter provides similar physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. Laughter therapy, one of the key non-pharmacological interventions, is a universal approach to reducing stress and anxiety.
Start a comedy series. Maybe F.R.I.E.N.D.S, or Charlie Chaplin for some black & white comedy.
Finding it hard to laugh? Start with a smile and build that up. It takes fewer muscles to smile and that to frown!
Surround yourself with happiness and positivity.
Follow a stand-up comedian that you like on social media. Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are a good place to find some.
Share jokes with friends or family, you can do that via messaging apps, or even at gatherings.