Senior Mindset Coach at Samuel and Co Trading. While studying and practising many energy healing systems spanning 40 years (EFT, TAT, TCM, Yuen Method, NLP, Applied Kinesiology, Qigong etc). He gained qualifications in Massage, Reflexology, Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy. His goal is to continue to help his clients experience freedom from life’s emotional trauma, stress, negativity, limiting beliefs and to holistically balance the Mind, Body and Spirit.
Hi everyone, welcome back to my weekly article. In this article, I want to cover the subject of laughing. Why do we laugh and what are the physical and psychological effects of laughing. When was the last time that you really had a really good laugh? When I was a young man, many, many years ago, it was commonplace for people to tell jokes. We would meet our friends down the pub and instantly start telling jokes, “have you heard this one?”. Everyone was waiting for an opportunity to tell their latest joke, trying to outdo the previous one, whether they’d told it to you before or not. Hours would go by, much alcohol was consumed, people were crying with laughter, their sides aching waiting for the next joke. In the end, it was agreed that a good night was had by all. Sadly, times have changed, you seldom hear a joke being told anymore.
But why do we laugh, what’s the purpose? Laughter is a mechanism everyone has, even babies have the ability to laugh before they speak. Children who are born blind and deaf still have the ability to laugh. There is no physiological ‘laugh centre’ in the brain, although neurological pathways link several areas of the brain to the lungs, the limbic system (our emotions) and the amygdala (our fight-flight) response mechanism, that allows us emotional expression such as laughter and the ability to increase or decrease them. Laughter is a response to certain external or internal stimuli, such as being tickled or from humorous stories (jokes) or thoughts. It is commonly considered as a visual expression of joy, happiness and relief etc. So why then do we laugh at someone else’s expense when they trip themselves up?
Laughter can also be associated with social awkwardness such as confusion, apology, embarrassment and a courtesy laugh depending on the age, gender, education, language or cultural ethics. Laughter helps humans clarify their intentions in social interaction as a signal for being part of a group, signalling acceptance, friendship, love, affection and mood. It is widely postulated that our ancestors used laughter long before language developed to communicate their intentions.
Physiologically, when we laugh our muscles contract, stimulating the heart and lungs, blood pressure and heart rate increase, we breathe faster thus sending more blood and oxygen to our tissues. This triggers the release of endorphins, the bodies natural feel-good chemicals in the brain, helping you feel more relaxed both physically and emotionally. Both sides of the brain are stimulated during laughter. Laughter makes you feel good, helping you remain positive and optimistic through difficult situations, disappointments and loss. Even hearing laughter is contagious, causing you to smile.
What are the benefits of laughing?
- Laughter combats depression, anxiety, anger or sadness by the release of natural feel-good chemicals in the brain; hormones, neuropeptides, and dopamine that improve your mood and overall sense of well-being.
- Laughing prevents you from focusing internally, creating psychological distance from your emotions. Your focus of attention is redirected outside of your body. Laughter has an anti-inflammatory effect that protects blood vessels and heart muscles.
- Laughing burns calories. Just 10-15 minutes of laughter can burn approximately 40 calories. Laughter promotes group bonding, drawing people together.
- Laughing is contagious and you’re more likely to laugh around other people than when you’re alone. Most laughter doesn’t come from hearing jokes, but by the interaction of family and friends, unless you’ve specifically gone to watch a comedian at the theatre.
- Laughter unites people in difficult times promoting a sense of togetherness and safety, reduces conflict, disagreements and hurt. Laughter helps you to be more spontaneous, lower your defences, release inhibitions and allow you to express your true feelings.
- Laughter is central to relationships. Women typically rate humour as a top-three trait for a potential mate. Couples that laugh together report having a higher-quality relationship.
Bring more laughter into your life
Start by smiling more, it’s contagious. Smile at someone in the lift or in the street, and notice the effect it has. Spend time with people who laugh easily. Watch a funny movie, TV show or YouTube video. Invite friends round for a game night. Enjoy play time with a pet and/or children. Lighten up and stop taking yourself so seriously – laugh at yourself, embrace your imperfections, stop being embarrassed or defensive.
“What’s the funniest thing that happened to you today, that made you laugh?”
I hope that you find this article different. As always, I hope you have enjoyed the input. I look forward to seeing any discussions and interaction from the community – more next week…