About the benefits of laughter

  • 2010-09-22

Each person has an innate ability to have a sense of humor. All of us like to laugh. Laughter helps to quickly involve people in communication and to make friends. Laughter helps to get rid of countless harmful suppressed emotions that cause destructive biochemical changes in the body. 

Doctors, sociologists, psychologists and biologists are well aware what tremendous benefit laughter brings. Nowadays, many methods of treatment for depression and other diseases include laughter. The reason for the effectiveness of these methods is that all emotions and feelings are closely linked to emotional experiences.

Scientists have been studying laughter since the ’70s. The effectiveness of laughter can only be compared to good aerobic exercise: it involves 80 groups of muscles. The shoulders are moving, the chest is shaking and the diaphragm is vibrating. The muscles of the neck and the back relax and facial muscles stretch, which, by the way, removes some types of headaches. Similar to physical exercises, in the process of laughing blood pressure increases slightly, the heartbeat quickens and the level of cholesterol reduces. The breathing optimizes, which dramatically improves blood flow to organs and tissues. This makes us feel good and improves our mood. In addition, laughter stimulates the immune and nervous system, soothes pain, relieves stress and normalizes digestion.

 There is a reason why we rejoice when ill people start to have fun - laughter actually increases resistance to disease. The explanation for this is that laughter activates the production of lymphocytes (cells that fight infection) and endorphins (substances that block pain).

Sense of humor and laughter are not the same thing
Lucky are those who have a sense of humor. And what if it is completely absent? First of all, you should know that sense of humor and the ability to laugh are two completely different things. The center responsible for our ability to entertain others is located in the frontal lobe of the left hemisphere of the brain and is connected to the center of speech. This is why scientists talk about the morphological and genetic predisposition to humor. And laughter is one of the mechanisms of human adaptation to the environment. It is considered to be an indicator of mental and physical health. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with not being able to joke, but the inability to laugh along with everyone is an alarming sign that a person is in a state of chronic stress. In general, a wide smile and joyous laughter is the same attribute of a healthy lifestyle as, for example, sports and giving up bad habits.

Treat failures with humor
Laughter smoothes problems that seem overwhelming. You must clearly understand the difference between a temporary setback and the attitude towards yourself as a loser. When we make a mistake or fail in something, we should not take it too seriously. Indeed, the problems begin when we allow the failure to fill all of our existence. Thomas Edison failed a thousand times before he invented the light bulb, but he saw each failure as an opportunity to exclude one more option and conduct a new experiment.

Neurologists argue that the ability to laugh at themselves, at the troubles and difficulties helps people to find peace of mind and not succumb to depression. “When a person laughs - the doctors say – the left and right hemispheres of the brain synchronize. This sets up a connection between the areas responsible for both emotional and logical brain functions.” In France, there is even a school of laughter-therapy and a couple of clubs for people who like to laugh. Not only do their members make fun of illnesses in a close circle, but they also bring the “laugh-culture” to the masses. One of their last events was held in the center of Paris. Hundreds of people gathered in the middle of the Trocadero in order to laugh amicably and infectiously in front of astonished passers by and tourists. The adherents of this new method of treatment affirm that after such sessions of laughter-therapy the blood pressure normalizes, self-confidence increases and diseases retreat.

Laughter for a healthy heart
There was a report on the benefits of laughter for heart health at the congress of American Cardiology in Orlando, Florida. Researchers have shown funny and gloomy fragments from films to healthy volunteers and measured the velocity of blood flow in the arteries. It was found that laughter increases the activity of blood by an average of 22 percent, whereas stress and grief, on the contrary, reduces it by 35 percent. According to the authors of the report, laughter has a positive effect on the inner membrane of the arteries - the endothelium. The effect of this influence is comparable to the effect of exercise in fresh air.

Laughter against wrinkles
Fearing to get wrinkles on the face, some women are trying to refrain from smiling, and even more so, from laughing. But the ‘mask of seriousness’ deprives a person from live emotions. Whereas natural laughter tones facial muscles and the blood flow nourishes the skin, which is necessary to maintain its tone. A smile is not just lips that are stretched to the sides. It is an emotion, positive and happy. It is caused by certain psychological reactions to some situations: a worldly image, a “sharp” word, figure, etc. This emotion is vital to the body.

Laughter makes you forget, at least for a while, your worries, problems, adversities. Take a look around: how many people around you are smiling? And don’t you find it very funny - grown men with absolutely motionless faces? So, it might be worth a laugh. Try it. And then you will not even notice how quickly your way of thinking changes and you will have no problem to burst out laughing – childishly and happy.

‘Stand in front of a mirror and force yourself to smile as long as possible. If the smile does not want to ‘stay’ on your face, then rest for a while and resume the exercise. Soon you will feel that your internal mood begins to change for the better. Perfect, you have achieved the desired result. This means that you are among those 98% of people who are capable of activating the life processes in the body with the help of a smile. And it also has beneficial effects on the brain, the psyche and on many organs. It is no coincidence that as far back as the 17th century, doctors said – “The arrival of a clown in the city means more to health than ten mules loaded with medicine!”. The great William Shakespeare continued the thought: ‘A merry heart lives long.’ And the Slovaks have a saying: ‘If your head is full of funny thoughts there is no time to think about diseases.’’