Laughter is the ability to create sound as a reaction to a stimuli evoked by internal or external events, situations, or persons. It is this physical manifestation that is signaled by a state of being; a state of thought; or as an emotional response. Laughter is the body’s release valve, allowing for the pressure within the body, both good and bad, to manifest through a physical expression and a vocal inflection. Laughter is an exhilarating experience that can be fueled by having a basic sense of purpose.
There are varying types of laughter from a chuckle, chortle, giggle, titter, twitter, roar, bellow, cackle, tee-hee, snicker, and a laugh. Laughter is the ability to express one’s internal emotions with an external expression.
Laughter is the purest form of communication. It expresses our real desires and intent. Through laughter we are capable of being real, genuine, and authentically ourselves. Dr. Robert Provine of University of Maryland, suggests that laughter is perhaps the earliest form of language known unto humankind. Dr. Provine has suggested that laughter predated the spoken language. Laughter’s ignition begins at the earliest stages of life.
Dr. Johannson fondly recalls her strongest memories of laughter being associated with her father. “The first vision that comes to my mind on the topic of laughter is of my dear father and seeing him laughing so many times… it was wonderful to see.. and actually when I think of him, I see him laughing… about even the simplest matters.”
The Physiological Effects of Laughter
Laughter has long been considered good medicine. Research backs up this old adage. “…Researchers at the University of Maryland … have shown for the first time that laughter is linked to healthy function of blood vessels. Laughter appears to cause the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium, to dilate or expand in order to increase blood flow.” (Science Daily, 2011) Research is increasing our awareness on the positive effects of laughter, while also shedding light on the negative effects of increased stress hormones.
“Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.” (Scott, 2011)
|Physical Health Benefits|
|Eases / Relaxes Muscle Tension||Prevents Heart Disease|
|Reduces Cortisol||Lowers Stress Hormones|
|Increases Lymphocyte Blastogenesis||Boosts Immunity|
|Decreases Physical Pain Receptors||Increases Endorphins|
|Increases Dopamine||Improves Respiratory|
|Increases Oxygen Levels||Increases T-cells|
|Increases Blood Circulation||Increases Catecholamines|
|Reduces Cellular Decay||Lower Blood Sugar Levels|
Psychological – Cognitive Benefits of Laughter
The psychological benefits of laughter are profound. Whether you are experiencing moments of health concerns, interpersonal issues, financial struggles, or personal challenges. Under such stressful circumstances pay attention to, delight in and cherish the moments of de-stressing laughter. Research has discovered that authentic laughter can heal, aid and prevent a number of mental health related issues.
|Psychological-Cognitive Health Benefits|
|Relaxation||Change Your Facial Expression – Features|
|Restful Sleep||Builds Rapport With Others|
|Counteract Depressive Features||Improves Brain Function|
|Counteract Anxiety||Relieves Stress|
|Counteract Psychosomatic Problems||Releases Negative Feelings and Emotions|
|Improves Your Cognition||Increases Your Social Attraction|
|Encourages Creativity||Amplifies Resiliency|
|Improves Mood||Improves Memory and Alertness|
Everyone should have someone that they can be accountable unto. It is important that people can check in with others from time-to-time, on ‘whether they have had moments of laughter’ or not. Laughing with other people can prove more beneficial than laughing alone. However, do not discount laughing alone, because any form of laughter can deflate the negative stimuli, thus fostering the positive.
Laughter can be manifested through purposeful desire and a conscience effort. If, you desire to laugh, but have not laughed in sometime, or you are simply needing a spirit of laughter, it can be manifested through conscience effort. Visualize on a positive event that brought laughter to your life. Think upon this event and let yourself be back in that moment. You will transcend the negative and your spirit will be uplifted. Remember to pay attention to moments of delight; focus on the joy and peace that they have created, in order that you have a reservoir of memories to draw upon, even in challenging times.
Allow yourself to laugh at thyself. Do not be afraid to take yourself less serious. For therapists, do not be afraid to use laughter in the therapeutic environment. Laughter is capable of de-escalating a hostile situations. Encourage your patients to practice daily laughter. Laughter can be obtained through: reading a humorous book; playing with children; watching or listening to a movie, television or radio show containing comedic characters; and spending time laughing with friends.
Laughter has a medicinal benefit; it can heal the mind, the body, and the soul. It is laughter that can lift our spirits when we are down and break the bondage of stress.
Children need for parents to model laughter. They need to learn that it is okay to simply laugh, to be silly, and to find humor in life. It is important that they learn to simply laugh and to be themselves. They need to learn to look past the difficulties of life, with an understanding that “this too shall pass.”
Consider the following
Laughter should be practiced on a daily and frequent basis. You should consider taking time to simply laugh, even if it feels strange; make yourself laugh. Purposeful laughter will prompt real laughter. Laughing will increase your immune system. It will brighten your day and others.
To promote daily laughter, you might even consider getting involved in Laughter Groups, Laughter Yoga, and other forms of laugh related organizations.
Laughter’s benefits are plentiful. The benefits for your body and your mind are limitless. Approach life with the expectation that you will laugh and find pleasure in it. Remember to live, love, and laugh.
The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.
~ Mark Twain
Berk, L. (2011) Dr. Lee Berk of Loma Linda University. Retrieved August 27, 2011 from http://www.llu.edu/pages/faculty/directory/portfolio_activity.php?uid=lberk&catid=5
DiChristina, M. (2009) Laughter as medicine — And other stories from MIND. Retrieved August 27, 2011 from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=from-the-editor-mind-mar-09
Provine, R. (2011) Robert Provine – Research. Retrieved August 28, 2011 from http://www.umbc.edu/psyc/faculty/provine/research.html
Science Daily (2011) University of Maryland School of Medicine Study Shows Laughter Helps Blood vessels function better Retrieved August 25, 2011 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050309111444.htm
Scott, E. (2011) The stress management and health benefits of laughter. Retrieved August 25, 2011 from http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/laughter.htm
Skinner, N., Brewer, N. (2002) The dynamics of threat and challenge appraisals prior to stressful achievements. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 83 (3) 678-92.
Authors: Dr. Asa Don Brown and Dr. Eunice Johannson, PhD, Alberta Registered Psychologist, Neuropsychologist
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA