Plato's remark that "Even the gods love jokes." must be correct, for the value of laughter is recorded in sacred scripture. For example, the Koran states that "He deserves Paradise who makes his companions laugh."
By the fourteenth century, the healing power of humor was recognized by the medical community. An important French surgeon, Henri de Mondeville (1260-1320), wrote, "Let the surgeon take care to regulate the whole regimen of the patient's life for joy and happiness, allowing his relatives and special friends to cheer him, and by having someone tell him jokes."
Did You Know Laughter:
Is a great team builder and social equalizer – When we laugh with a group, social/class/cultural/racial barriers to communication are quickly overcome and a mutual feeling of trust develops within the group.
People who laugh often have a tendency to be more popular and are likely to have a greater impact on group decisions. Research shows that when we laugh, we tend to talk more, make more eye contact and do more of the things that help us connect with others. Laughter also lessens tension. It’s hard to feel angry, tense or anxious when you’re laughing.
Is Aerobic – it increases the oxygen intake of your body and also gives your diaphragm a good workout. Hearty laughter massages our major organs (scientists call it 'internal jogging') and boosts circulation in our lymphatic system.
Varies with age – Children who are six years of age laugh an average of 300 times a day. Adults laugh an average of 15 times a day.
Is an inexpensive medicine – sustained laughter has been shown to stimulate an increased rate of endorphins, the body's natural morphine. It also helps to normalize our digestive system and may help resolve to stress-related constipation, diarrhea, gas and even ulcers. Laughter has also been shown to regulate our sleep system and can help to overcome many sleep disorders.
Interestingly enough, regardless of the culture, laughter sounds the same. This has lead some researchers to believe laughter helped our ancestors bond. In fact, the sound of laughter is so common and familiar that it can be recognized if played backwards on tape.
Balances the brain – During normal beta activity, the left and right sides of your brain look different under a PET (positron emission tomography) scan. When you laugh, both sides look almost identical.
Here are some other interesting facts about laughing:
People laugh at jokes and funny movies; however, 80% of our laughter occurs during everyday comments in everyday social situations.
We used to laugh 20 minutes out of every day in the 1950’s. Now we laugh for 6 minutes out of every day. What’s changed between now and then?
A daily laughter workout of 15 minutes can burn 40 calories and melt away 4 pounds over the course of a year.
What is Laughing?
Laughter is not only a simple response to comedy; laughter is a hidden language we all speak that binds people together. Smiling, laughing and tickling might have evolved to create bonds between babies and parents. Laughter is a series of short vowel-like syllables usually transcribed as “ha-ha,” “ho-ho” or “hee-hee.” These syllables are part of the universal human vocabulary, produced and recognized by people of all cultures. Monkey and apes have some facial expressions that are similar to human smiles.
Laughing is good for the heart and the lungs, it increases the amount of oxygen in the body and this in turn, is good for the respiratory system. Researcher has estimated that a good laugh produces an increase in heart rate that is equivalent to ten minutes on a rowing machine or fifteen minutes on an exercise bike. The expectation of laughter is enough to increase the production of endorphins – the body’s natural painkiller. The level of some stress hormones is lowered, such as cortisol and other important stress fighting chemicals are released. Laughter requires the coordination of many muscles throughout the body: a long bout of laughter is similar to an aerobic workout. It gives your diaphragm and abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles a workout. Laughter also provides a boost to the immune system, which helps us fight off diseases. Laughing is a way of releasing stored up negative emotions.
Laughter and el Brain
There is no specific brain centre for laugher, rather a network of different areas are involved. The areas of the brain involving in understanding why a joke is funny are the area mainly located towards the back of the frontal lobes. People who have damaged this part of the brain often lose their sense of humour. Parts of the limbic system are also involved in understanding of a joke: limbic system is the primitive part of the brain that is involved in emotions and helps us with basic functions necessary for survival. It is believed that laughter is an ancient behaviour, and that the physical act of laughter is generated by a mechanism that modifies respiration: this enables the “ha-ha” sound.
The Tickle Machine
Some scientists believe that laughing caused by tickling is a built-in reflex, however, if you try to tickle yourself in exactly the same way that another person tickles you, you do not laugh. The brain needs tension and surprise for the tickling to work. When you try to tickle yourself you know what will happen, and that does not make you laugh.
The most wasted day is that in which we have not laughed. Don't wait until you are sick before you begin practicing laughter therapy. Start today by renting comedy classics from your video store, borrowing humorous books from the library, attending comedy clubs or watching comics on TV, and exchanging jokes with family members, friends, and coworkers. If you are visiting someone in the hospital, why not bring funny greeting cards and humorous books instead of flowers?