Laughter spans age, gender, language and culture. We make each other laugh and we emotionally respond to laughter in others. As humans we are one of a few species that laughs and we laugh from the time we are babies.

Since biblical times, we have not only been laughing, we have been reporting on the benefits of laughter on mind and body:

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Proverbs 17:22

“You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.” Michael Pritchard

 “I never would have made it if I could not have laughed. It lifted me momentarily out of this horrible situation, just enough to make it livable.” Viktor Frankl

The value of laughter has become so recognized that it has been formerly offered as Laughter Yoga, Laughter Therapy and Humor Therapy, etc.

 What is Laughter?

Laughter is defined as the physiological response to humor which consists of gestures and the production of a sound which our brain directs us to conduct simultaneously. When we laugh, changes occur in our brains and our bodies. Scientific evidence underscores that laughter is physically, psychologically, and interpersonally beneficial-a gift we need and a gift we can share.

Physiological Benefits

  • Researchers have found that laughter relaxes skeletal and cardiovascular muscles.
  • The rapid breathing associated with laughter increases oxygen level and improves respiratory function.
  • Laughter has been described as “internal jogging for all the major organs.”
  • A study that randomly assigned 40 participants to a humorous audiotape, a relaxation audiotape and a narrative audiotape found that laughter most significantly increased tolerance for pain.

 Psychological Benefits

Laughter has been associated with reduction of stress, anxiety and improvement to mood, self-esteem and coping skills.

As Jimmy Buffet says:   “If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.”

  • Given the body-mind connection, the very act of laughter changes body chemistry to our advantage. When we laugh, our brain releases endorphins – the feel good hormones of serotonin and dopamine that foster a sense of wellbeing.
  • It’s not that laughter ignores pain or difficulty. Rather it gives us enough distance to breathe and find a way to figure out the next step.
  • Laughter is a resiliency tool for stress.

 Interpersonal Benefits

“Laughter is the Shortest Distance between Two People” Victor Borge

You may have had the experience of entering a room where people are laughing and before long you are laughing without even knowing why. It is connection without words.

Many researchers believe that the purpose of laughter is related to making and strengthening human connections.  The more laughter, the more bonding and the more laughter – this may account for the contagion in laughing.

It gives us pause to wonder what is or isn’t happening in a family, an office , a church, or a country where there is not enough laughter.

“As a general rule, the freedom of any people can be judged by the volume of their laughter.”– Anonymous

Laughter Enhances Intimacy

A number of years ago, a woman, who together with her husband of many years had been trying to salvage their devastated marriage, reported: “Something different is happening – We are laughing. We never laughed.”

  • Laughter is integral to intimacy because laughing means risking being emotionally touched by another.
  • Laughter is a mutually shared moment in time.
  • Laughter enhances special connection -the insider joke, the hysterics shared in a place where no one else is laughing,
  • Laughter embodies the feeling “We get each other and we are moved to laugh in a similar way.”

“We cannot really love anybody with whom we never laugh.”

Wrap Up a Reason to Laugh and Pass it on to Those You Love and Those You Don’t Yet Know!

 

Listen Back to the Podcasts on Psych Up Live on Voice America