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Why is Laughter Healing?

Just as studies have shown that using massage chairs in the workplace can reduce stress, improve concentration, and focus, and enhance one’s overall job performance, appropriate laughter at work can also encourage similar outcomes.

Furthermore, laughter can improve team morale, reduce tension, and increase job satisfaction overall because it is so healing. Hence why so many corporations today are opting to host mental health days that are focused on fun, humor-inducing, interactive “play” for their teams. It increases their bottom line and keeps employee turnover rates lower by hosting events focused on laughter.

For the aging population, laughter can add a better time to their years, helping them find joy and a reason to laugh. It’s a powerful tool for helping older adults cope with the physical and emotional challenges of aging while also helping to improve their cognitive functioning, focus, and memory. Memory care is needed for a reason, so why not help your loved ones laugh?

Additionally, laughter can help to increase physical activity by stimulating the body, increasing blood flow, and even improving balance and coordination, significantly reducing the risk of falls and other injuries associated with aging.

In providing these priceless attributes, laughter helps to improve one’s quality of life overall, promoting a sense of social connectedness and solidarity and a greater appreciation for life, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation, which are particularly common among older adults. However, we did find out that it is more common than we thought among all demographics since the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Why laughter is the best medicine

According to science, when you laugh, your brain releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood boosters. Like a mini cardio session, laughing can boost your respiration and heart rate. In addition, a good laugh ripples through your body, causing muscles to tense and then relax.

While more research is certainly needed to confirm the actual scientific benefits of laughter, studies consistently show that they may also help provide the following:

  • Improved mood and quality of life

 

  • Reduced stress levels: Laughter reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine

 

  • Improved immune system

 

  • Reduced pain: Laughter can help to reduce the perception of pain, while massage can help to reduce muscle tension and improve circulation.

 

  • Improved sleep: Since laughter helps reduce stress hormones such as cortisol, a sleep disruptor, watching or reading something funny before bed just might help with those sleepless nights

Laughter and massage are two effective tools for helping those who have experienced serious injuries to improve their health and mental well-being. For those who have experienced traumatic physical injuries, massage can help to reduce muscle tension and improve circulation.

Similarly, laughter can be an effective way of helping those who have experienced serious injuries to cope with the psychological and emotional aspects of their experience. Studies have found that laughter can help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and can promote feelings of joy, happiness, and contentment.

Isn’t it interesting how much our mental health affects our physical health? Makes me want to lighten up, not take everything so seriously and learn to, as I have heard people quote St Francis of Assisi, “Wear the world like a loose garment, which touches us in a few places and there lightly”.

 

What are the positive effects from laughing?

Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and increases the endorphins released by your brain. As a result, it activates and relieves the stress response.

According to an article on Chopra.com, “Laughter activates the body’s natural relaxation response. It’s like internal jogging, providing a good massage to all internal organs while also toning abdominal muscles,” says Dr. Gulshan Sethi, head of cardiothoracic surgery at the Tucson Medical Center and faculty at the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine.

They go on to talk about how laughter is contagious. I find this part most interesting. In fact, I am laughing just thinking about it! My mother’s family, at least the women, are known to have incredible senses of humor, from being dry and sarcastic (my mom) to a practical joker (my Nana) or just plain silly (my aunt). On many occasions, the four of us would be up to the wee hours chatting and laughing.

Sometimes, my aunt would go off on what my mom called “a laughing jag.” No words were even getting out to say what she was laughing about, but the rest of us would be in tears, almost wetting our pants over something we didn’t even know what she was laughing about. Now if that doesn’t represent how laughter is contagious, I do not know what else does!

 

Is laughter contagious or infectious?

Laughter is not only a great way to boost your mood, but it is also contagious. A single laugh can quickly spread to others in a room, creating a ripple effect of laughter and cheer. Studies have even shown that hearing a single laugh, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, can trigger a similar response in the listener.

There’s also a physiological reason why laughter is contagious. The sound of a chuckle triggers regions in the premotor cortical region of the brain which is directly involved with moving facial muscles to correspond with sound.

This phenomenon is known as “contagious laughter,” and it’s actually a form of emotional contagion. Emotional contagion is the process of transferring emotions from one person to another without conscious thought or effort. The same phenomenon causes us to “catch” someone else’s yawn.

Laughter is particularly contagious because it’s a form of positive emotion. Hearing someone else laughing activates the same neural pathways in our brain associated with happiness, joy, and pleasure. In other words, it’s like a shot of happiness!

Not only is laughter contagious, but it also benefits our health by reducing stress, boosting our immune system, and improving our overall mood. Plus, it can help to strengthen relationships by creating a sense of closeness and connection.

Like those priceless “inside jokes” we share with friends. Or, as my kids put it, “funny family stories.” When they were little, they loved for me to share those funny family stories from my mother’s family or from when they were smaller. Likewise, some of the most precious moments spent with my boys were spent sharing humor as our “family gift.”

Research has shown that the critical laughter trigger for most people is not necessarily a joke or a funny movie but rather another person.

It makes sense; think about it. The show America’s Funniest Videos has been airing since November 26, 1989, for a reason, we’re laughing at every day, ordinary people doing normal silly things that make us laugh. The show’s audience peaked in the 1991-92 TV season with an average of 25 million viewers an episode, a number well out of reach of most prime time shows in today’s fragmented TV environment.

We innately know that laughter is the shortest distance between two people, but there’s an anthropological reason why laughter is contagious. One study suggests that laughter and humor are genetically built-in and that humor, historically, has functioned as a social glue and is even thought to have existed before humans could speak as a way to strengthen bonds.

Laughter and humor have been observed as a way of:

  • Diffusing tense situations

 

  • Creating a sense of camaraderie and trust

 

  • Showing support and affection

 

  • Showing that someone is not a threat

Humor is also seen as a way of expressing solidarity and group membership. For example, people are likelier to laugh at jokes that refer to their group, culture, or religion, as this allows them to feel a sense of belonging and unity.

Finally, humor can also be seen as a form of communication, conveying ideas and emotions in a non-threatening way, expressing emotions and ideas that may be too sensitive or controversial to discuss directly.

 

Why is laughter healing?

Overall, laughter (and massage) can be powerful tools for helping those who have experienced serious injuries to improve their health and mental well-being. Providing a combination of physical and psychological support can help reduce pain, improve sleep, reduce stress, and improve the overall quality of life.

And in the words of the great Disney character Goofy, “Ya know why I laugh? A’ ‘cuz it’s good for ya!”