An elderly couple goes to Burger King, where they carefully split a burger and fries. A trucker takes pity on them and offers to buy the wife her own meal. "It's all right," says the husband. "We share everything." A few minutes later, the trucker notices that the wife hasn't taken a bite. "I really wouldn't mind buying your wife her own meal," he insists. "She'll eat," the husband assures him. "We share everything." Unconvinced, the trucker implores the wife, "Why aren't you eating?" The wife snaps, "Because I'm waiting for the teeth!
It would at least give anyone a smile. Indeed, human beings love to laugh. Laughter is part of the universal human vocabulary and all members of the human species understand it. Moreover, people do not decide to do it. Basically, that is the reason why it is very hard to laugh on command or to fake laughter. It is natural and humans are one of the only species that laughs.
What exactly is laughter?
According to Gervais, laughter is a behavior controlled by the brain. It is a sound produced to express amusement. Laughter is the physiological response to humor, which consists of two parts -- a set of gestures and the production of a sound. When people laugh, the brain pressures us to conduct both those activities simultaneously and changes occur in many parts of the body, even the arm, leg and trunk muscles.
Humans like having fun and laughing that resulted into design industries, such as jokes, sitcoms and comedians, to make people laugh and feel good. Most agree that people laugh when they find something humorous, yet different reasons exist for what they find to be humorous and these things may vary depending on the different stages of a person’s life. They laugh at things that surprise them because they seem out of place. Or maybe, they laugh at certain types of jokes, which make them feel superior to other people. But it can also be that they need a release and laughter is the way of cleansing their system of the built-up tension and incongruity.
However, not all jokes are funny for all people. What makes things funny may vary from age and gender. According to C.M. Vanderlinden, “Children laugh 400 times per day, as opposed to adults, who only laugh 17 times per day.” As people grow older and learn along the way, their senses of humor become more developed. Likewise, women tend to laugh more than men do. Researches say that women has more ability to be more understanding when light hearted communication is needed, and use laughter as their advantage to certain situations. Another factor that affects what people find funny is the culture or community from which they come from. What a person finds funny may not always be funny for other people in some parts of the world. There are economic, political and social issues that are easy to laugh about, but only the people living in that culture may understand it. Some jokes may be really offensive to others.
But, still, laughter knows no boundaries. A person does not have to speak the same language to laugh together. It is one form of communication to which everyone can relate. Unlike English or French, people do not have to learn to speak it because people are born with the capacity to laugh and it remarkably occurs unconsciously. Laughter is the universal language found in every people group on earth. Laughter breaks down the barriers of culture, race, economic classes, nationality and governmental philosophies. No matter what differences people may have with others, when they experience something that is amusing, they all respond the same way — with a laugh. As stated, it is the closest distance between two people. It unites individuals with everyone else who is laughing. Laughter is a simpler method of communication.
However, there is more to it than what it may seem. Yes, laughter, it is what people are inclined to do when they are happy or when they are amused. It is the indication of an experience that will most likely be remembered for the rest of one's life. It allows people to communicate and unite. It does wonders, yes, but what else does it have in store for everyone?
The research intends to cover the subject to provide a broad coverage on what laughter has in store for everyone. Also, it explores the benefits laughter offers to every person. Moreover, this paper aims to prove that people should laugh more because it has positive effects to mental, physical and social health.
Laughter is a good feeling. The good feeling that a person gets when they laugh remains with them even after the laughter subsides. Also, it is quite noticeable that when someone laughs, it automatically loosens individuals up. It lightens people’s state. Moreover, laughing boosts people’s mood, adds joy and enthusiasm to life, eases anxiety and fear and enhances resilience. Furthermore, it helps them keep a positive outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss and it diminishes stress. More than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives individuals the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh or even simply a smile can go a long way toward making him or her feel better. It aids cope, and it gives hope for a better future. Plus, laughter really is contagious—just hearing laughter primes brain and readies everyone to smile and join in the fun. Laughter is a great reliever from mental problems. Indeed, Laughter helps every individual stay emotionally healthy.
Laughter relaxes the mind. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling to stay focused and accomplish more. Laughter reduces stress levels by reducing the level of stress hormones, and also helps cope with serious illnesses. It improves over-all mental health and serves as an antidote to stress, pain and conflict. According to studies, levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine, which are immunosuppressive, tend to decrease during bouts of laughter. These hormones can suppress the immune system, opening the floodgates to a host of infections, illnesses and general poor health.
Additionally, laughter dissolves distressing emotions. A person cannot feel anxious, angry, or sad when he or she is laughing. A study of adolescent oncology patients revealed that in situations where the nurse humored the patients, the reality that they are ill is not really negated, rather the patients were somewhat more accepting and more able to cope with their predicament. Laughter is socially accepted outlet for pent-up emotions and is almost always beneficial. That is excluding situations when it is awkward. The release of these pent-up emotions leads to the lessening of stress. All this conspires to ultimately promote healing in one’s emotionality.
Furthermore, laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress and negative emotions to them alongside other “mere distractions.” The stress and strain of modern life are taking a heavy toll of the human mind and body. Mind-related diseases like anxiety, depression, nervous breakdowns and sleeplessness are on the rise. Laughter has benefited many people who were on heavy anti depressant pills and tranquilizers. Now, they are getting better sleep and their depression has reduced. People with suicidal tendencies have started living with more hope. It will make an individual cheerful and put him or her in a positive frame of mind. Researchers found that people’s response to stressful events can be altered by whether they view something as a “threat” or a “challenge.” Humor can give a more light-hearted perspective and help view events as “challenges,” thereby making them less threatening, more realistic, and more positive. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help avoid feeling overwhelmed. The next time a person feels like he or she is losing control, he or she must allow himself or herself a little “humor time.”
Likewise, laughter eases fear and anger, allowing us to deal better with a bad situation. Life is something that is out of anyone’s control, thus giving people a sense of helplessness that can be unsettling and stressful at the same time. Negative experiences such as job loss or even unexpected breakdowns can happen suddenly, catching people unawares. In these situations, it is a good practice to find something amusing in life and laugh about it. It is a good way to counter these punches that life seems to always deal people with.
Although no one can control life occurrences, what one can control is the way he or she deals with these situations. By laughing them out, one can protect the mind, body and spirit and be socially pleasant. Tragic events decrease in magnitude when there is amusement and laughter in the room.
It is a fact that laughter grants someone a sense of joy. While it lasts, it eases fear and anger, the absence of which then allows someone to have a semblance of control and hope. And simply, laughter is a pleasure. At least momentarily, it alleviates fear and anger, inducing both a sense of control and hope. Also, laughter helps establish therapeutic relationships by reducing fears and anxiety that can inhibit the learning process, and by engendering trust.
Laughter is a great thing and as expressed in a saying, "Laughter is the best medicine." Sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools people have to make certain that their daily mood and emotional state support good health. There is strong evidence that laughter can actually improve health and help fight disease. Laughing does not just make individuals happier but it even makes them healthier.
It is a common experience for someone to feel a little bit exhausted when they laugh. It is usually accompanied by an aching if the abdominal area, watering of the eyes, being out of breath and feeling totally spent. It is just like a two-hour session in the gym. This implies a connection between laughter and exercise. Notably, both can give a boost to one’s health.
Tests were carried out to test the effects of laughter on the body. People watched funny films while doctors checked their heart rates, blood pressure, breathing and muscles. It was found that laughter has similar effects to physical exercise. So it would not hurt for someone to laugh while at the gym exercising. One does not need to be afraid of laughing at the awkward gym-mate or the occasional slip because it helps. Laughter has the same effects as someone’s everyday aerobic exercise. According to research, laughing a hundred times is equivalent to 10 minutes on a rowing machine 15 minutes on a stationary bike. What is better is that it does not require as much effort to laugh than it is to do a full workout. In addition to that, laughter helps clear one’s respiratory system. Laughter induces people to breathe in and out, which helps unclog airways and thus results in a more efficient respiration and oxygen intake. Laughter provides immeasurable benefits to the body and mind. There are plenty of exercises available for body muscles, but laughing provides a good massage to all internal organs. Laughing gives internal organs, a gentle but effective workout. Nowadays, laughing is already considered as an exercise that will end up people sweating. This workout is titled laughter yoga. Ms. Siraj, a yoga instructor, explained that laughter yoga as an exercise combines Figure 1: Women enjoying laughter yoga. (Kataria, 2012) Figure 1: Women enjoying laughter yoga. (Kataria, 2012)
deep breathing with tension-releasing laughter. With the deep breathing involved, it can provide a good aerobic workout.
Additionally, there are more physical health benefits that laughter provides to every person. It relaxes the whole body. Regarding to studies, a good laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. Laughter relaxes muscles, which, as mentioned above, can help reduce stress and offer some relief for people dealing with spasm-related muscle pain. This is part of the reason why some doctors and nurses tell jokes right before giving shots – they are trying to relax patients so they do not tighten their muscles in anticipation of the injection
Laughter decreases pain and triggers the release of endorphins. It increases tolerance of pain by releasing endorphins, peptides that offer a feeling of well-being and help with pain management. Psychologically, at least, laughter serves as a distraction from pain, and one survey of the nonpharmaceutical management of pain rated laughter as the most effective means of coping with it. Moreover, laughter has a lasting effect. After it has subsided, the good feeling that lingers is one not ordinarily felt after other distractions from pain have abated. Laughter may be one of the best natural pain relievers around – it is effective, free and available everywhere.
Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. According to a recent study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, which is the first to indicate that laughter may help prevent heart disease, found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease. Mr. Michael Miller said, "Mental stress is associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining our blood vessels. This can cause a series of inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries and ultimately to a heart attack." The results of the study indicated that laughter seemed to cause the endothelium, tissue that composes the lining of blood vessels, to expand, allowing for better blood flow. Laughter can have some astounding therapeutic results on cardiovascular health.
It also boosts the immune system. Decreasing stress hormones, improving circulation and oxygen intake, and releasing negative emotions can boost immunological responses and keep healthy. Laughter increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving resistance to disease. According to a study made by Patillo, “Levels of salivary IgA, an antibody that helps fight upper respiratory disease, were elevated after the subjects had watched a humorous film. Humor and laughter also raise levels of the antibodies IgM and IgG, and of com plement C3, all of which enhance the inflammation, chemotaxis, and lysis of target cells. Laughter increases levels of interferon gamma, which inhibits virus replication, promotes antigen processing, and activates macrophages. Thus, an immune system that has been weakened by disease and its treatment, and burdened with unfavorable emotions, may be somewhat renewed in laughter.” Adverse emotions tend to depress the immune response, while favorable ones strengthen immunity. Laughter, indeed, reduces the level of stress hormones, increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the efficiency of cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.
People say that there is a reason why when a person laughs, the whole world laughs with him or her but when he or she cries, he or she weeps all alone. Who would ever want to hang around a crying person who has negative things to say? Discovering the humor in life and being able to laugh at it will only improve one’s social health.
Many researchers believe that the purpose of laughter is related to human connections. It permits individuals to connect, bond and converse with one another. There are also social benefits to frequent laughter. Sharing humor with others reduces aggression and defuses conflict. It helps people to control the situation without having any problem. Also, it functions as a social signal, which is a sign of invitation and acceptance. It boosts self-confidence that enhances teamwork and promotes group bonding. And lastly, it brings people together resulting to better and exciting relationships.
Laughter reduces aggression and defuses conflict. It serves as a hypothetical knife that cuts the tension in a room and breaks the ice in a group setting allowing people to relax and join in the fun. People know the relief when someone in a group makes a funny comment during a tense situation. Through laughter, people become calmer and less violent that helps every person to have good and clearer viewpoints of what is really happening. As detailed by Recker in one of his studies, students who watched a funny video in their classroom responded with lower levels of aggression in tense situations. Laughter provides significant benefits in social skills and by releasing negative emotions, like aggression, in a good and positive way; it does help a person to defuse conflict with oneself and with others, as well.
Moreover, laughter is a social signal. Laughing with others is more powerful than laughing alone. It is a social phenomenon and it is the reason getting the giggles never happens when unaccompanied. According to Robert Provine, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, laughter functions as a kind of social signal. Other studies have confirmed that theory by proving that people are 30 times more likely to laugh in social settings than when they are alone. Also, it is a signal of acceptance. For Philosopher John Morreall, the first human laughter may have begun as a gesture of shared relief at the passing of danger. And since the relaxation that results from about of laughter inhibits the biological fight-or-flight response, laughter may indicate trust in one's companions. Laughter occurs when people are comfortable with each other, when they feel free and open to one another. Somehow, it is used as a signal for being part of a group. Moreover, laughter is indeed an invitation to start a conversation. Laughter is a magnet that draws people into social relationships. When people hear laughter, they naturally move toward its source. It aims at decreasing social distance.
Furthermore, laughter increases self-confidence. When laughing in a group at a public place with arms up towards the sky, it removes inhibitions and over a period of time, the individual becomes more sociable, unreserved and outgoing person. Gradually, it also adds to his or her self-confidence. It will also help to develop personality and leadership qualities. Letting oneself to laugh, helps a person to be more spontaneous. Laughter gets a person’s head free from troubles and forgets judgments, criticisms and doubts. Also, it releases inhibitions to set aside holding back. Moreover, it allows emotions to rise to the surface that pushes a person to express true feelings. One study found that 85% of 14 terminally ill patients believed that humor would help them connect with others, experience joy, hope, and pleasure, and facilitate coping. Good feelings allowed patients to ask questions they might not have been able to otherwise, and better equip them to handle difficult.
Incorporating laughter into one’s daily interactions can also improve the quality of relationships and connections with co-workers, family members, and friends. Likewise, laughter appears to lower natural stranger anxiety making it easier to develop a new friendship. This may be the reason those who laugh and have a sense of humor have more friends in their lives. It is part of human nature that everyone loves someone who makes him or her laugh. Sharing laughter with other people is an effective tool for making or maintaining a relationship because it adds joy, vitality, and resilience. When friends or family members share in a humorous event, be it a funny movie or a joke around a dinner table, it releases positive emotions that help develop closeness and bind people together. Laughter happens when people feel relaxed with each other. With more laughter comes more bonding. When a person laughs with others, a positive bond is created which acts as strong barrier against negative forces like disagreements. Certainly, it is an efficient way to heal hurts, disappointments, and quarrels. Laughter brings people together and unites people during difficult times. Individuals with a good social support network deal much better with the ups and downs of life than those who lack such a network. Laugher is the power that gets a person through the tough times.
So to conclude, laughter is not just what it appears on the surface. Maybe to some, laughter is just what it is, an inherent and human response to good times. It is just an all too common thing to do when one is humored or when one finds something to be really amusing or interesting. This is the primary reason why the simple act of laughing is usually taken for granted as an act that does not do anything other than be a response to humor, amusement or in some cases, lunacy. It is just that, someone tells a joke or finds something funny and tells everyone about it and everybody laughs, end of story.
But as evidenced in this paper, laughter is not only what it seems on the outside. According to studies cited in this research, laughter has a subtle yet positive effect on one’s mental health, physical health, and social skills. It has some properties and effects that really seem far-fetched in the beginning but when one really thinks about it, it really makes sense for laughter to have such effects. Come to think of it, laughter being such a positive action, it is bound to have positive effects on somebody as well. On the subject of one’s mental health, it goes without saying that laughter is a good indication that someone is on the right track mentally. Having such a positive outlook that results in laughter is really a very good stabilizer of mental health because mental problems, excluding those that are inherent since birth, are usually caused by a negative perception of life. This kind of perspective makes it easy for someone to snap under the burden of life. By laughing, people show that they are fine and they can take whatever life throws at them because laughter is an indication of personal mental strength since it shows that even though life is tough and full of struggles, they are still capable of positivity. About physical health, well there are many researches as cited in this paper that really shows that laughter is not just a good action, it is a good medicine too. Laughter has been proven to trigger such changes in the body that really impacts the body positively. From providing exercise to the body to helping keep the organs in good condition, it really is a strong indication that laughter can really do wonders to people physically. Socially, laughter also does wonders to people. It actually just takes common sense to see that people like to hang out with people who laugh a lot because it is a good sign of social capability. People who like to brood are considered as repulsive because they have the potential to be really boring while people who like to laugh a lot are taken to be people who like humor and amusement which is a prime quality that people look for in other people. The research cited in this paper also reflects the insight presented here. All in all laughter really does a lot more than just be a subconscious response. It is the mark of a mentally sound mind, a healthy body and an aptitude for dealing with people the right way.
Under the thinking that laughter is not just what it seems it is but something more, then there would be a lot of applications for this knowledge. Considering that laughter has positive effects on one mentality, physicality and social life then it would be really easy and in line with common sense to recommend that people should laugh more because it does wonders to them. It has been asserted in this paper that laughter’s effects are beneficial to those who frequently laugh and as such the increase in the frequency of the habit of laughter would greatly increase the chances of occurrence of these positive effects. So people should lighten up and succumb to their urges to laugh.
Baudelaire, Charles. The Essence of Laughter. New York, NY: Meridian: 1956.
Berger, Arthur Asa. “The Structure of Laughter: Semiotics and Humor.” BlindMen and Elephants: Perspectives on Humor. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Press,
Bergson, Henri Louis. “Laughter.” Comedy. Ed. Wylie Sypher. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1956, 59-190.
Cousins, Norman. “The Laughter Prescription.” The Saturday Evening Post Oct, 1990: 34.
Elliot-Binns, C. P. “Laughter and Medicine.” Journal of the Royal Coll Gen Pract 35.8 (1985): 364-65.
Francis, L. E. “Laughter: The Best Mediation–Humor as Emotion Management Interaction.” Symbolic Interaction 17.2 (1994): 147-163.
Gelbart, Larry. Laughing Matters. New York, NY: Random House, 1998.
Goldstein, Jeffrey H. “Therapeutic Effects of Laughter.” Handbook of Humor and Psychotherapy: Advances in the Clinical Use of Humor. Eds. William Fry and Waleed Salameh. Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Exchange, 1987, 1-20.
Gregory, J. C. The Nature of Laughter. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1924.
Lally, Steven. “Laugh Your Stress Away.” Prevention. June, 1991: 50ff.
Laura, Ronald S., and Bob Wolff. “Not Just for Laughs: Humor Can Relieve Stress and Prolong Life.” Muscle and Fitness. December, 1992: 148ff.
Miyamoto, Lance. “Why Laughing is Good for You.” Science Digest. June, 1981, 27.
Piddington, Ralph. The Psychology of Laughter. New York, NY: Gamut Press, 1963.
Stone, Judith. “Laugh and Your Whole Cardiovascular System Laughs with You–Not to Mention Your Stress Hormones.” In Health. 5 (January, 1992): 52-55.
White, Sabina, and Andrew Winzelberg. “Laughter and Stress.” Humor: International Journal of Humor Research. 5.4 (1992): 343-356.
Lianzhi, Xu. "Research of Laughter." Baidu.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2012. <http://wenku.baidu.com/view/7d20fa649b6648d7c1c746f4.html>.
Scott, Elizabeth M.S. "The Stress Management and Health Benefits OfÂ Laughter."
About.com Stress Management. N.p., 18 June 2012. Web. 28 Sept. 2012. <http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/laughter.htm>.