Everyone knows when someone finds something funny. People instantaneously understand laughter, no matter the language or cultural difference. Researchers set out to determine if humor can deliver more than just comic relief. We know it feels good to laugh, but do the benefits go beyond that temporary sense of relief and enjoyment?
We physiologically change when we laugh. Muscles in our face and body are involved which helps to relax tension. While we are laughing our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues. Scientific data demonstrates that laughter is an integral part of physical wellness. For example, a recent study found that after a few minutes of laughter, blood pressure dropped to a healthier level than before the laughter began (Bains, et al., 2014). Laughter also oxygenates your blood, thereby increasing energy level, relaxes your muscles and improves the functioning of the primary internal systems like the cardiovascular and respiratory systems (Miller, 2009).
Most people don’t get enough laughter in their lives. For example, one recent study suggested that children laugh as much as 400 times per day, but adults only laugh about 15 times per day. Another study utilizing 40 years of research on the use of humor in the classroom found that humor builds group cohesion; people respond more positively to each other when humor is present, and humor helps people cope with stress. There was a caveat though that indicated that not all functions of humor are positive. For example, if humor is used divisively or to disparage others, it weakens group cohesion. (Banas, J. A. et. al. 2011)
In some ways, laughter is the only logical response to some situations that life throws in our way. Being able to laugh at ourselves and our situation helps us release tension, regain our perspective, and accept things we cannot change. Not only that, it gives us the physical energy and improves our resilience.
Let’s see where you are on the Laugh-O-Meter:
1) Have you laughed today? Not smiled, but laughed.
2) When did you last see people laughing at work or home?
3) At home, how do you feel when you hear family members laugh? Do you join in the fun?
4) Are you able to find the humor in a stressful situation? Can you help others find humor at just the right time?
5) How do you react to seeing others laugh at work? Do you join in or look away disapprovingly?
Make a commitment to get more laughter into your life. Not only is it fun. It is good for your health.
Bains, GS, Berk LS, Daher, N., Lohman E. Schwab E. Petrofsky, J. Deshpande P. (2014). The effect of humor on short term memory in older adults: a new component for whole person wellness. Adv Mind Body Med ,28, 16-24.
Banas, J. A. N., Rodriguez, D., and Liu, S. (2011). A review of humor in educations settings: Four decades of research. Communication. Education, 60 (1) 115-144.
Miller, Michael. (2009). Laughter is the Best Medicine for Your Heart. University of Maryland Medical Center. News release July 14, 2009.
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