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The Benefits of Laughing

By: Sravika Bolla

Laughter can range from a little chuckle to outright cackling with no room left to breathe. It can be forced, or spontaneous. Whether it be a corny dad joke or your favorite comedy movie, laughter will never be depended on as damaging. It releases stress and creates a more easygoing environment. It helps decrease anger and is a common form of therapy. Many people can agree that the one thing about laughter is that you can get life-changing benefits no matter where you are, when, or how you are laughing. 

The benefits of laughing makes you feel more relaxed with stress relief. According to the Newport Academy, a “good laugh leaves the muscles relaxed for as long as 45 minutes.” By releasing endorphins into the brain, laughter triggers an improvement in mood and a greater sense of welfare. Laughter also increases our energy levels and alleviates pain. This helps us concentrate more, and be more productive in our daily lives. A recent study published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that social laughter causes a chemical reaction in the brain of an endogenous opioid release, which makes us feel good and feel less pain. Furthermore, laughter increases oxygen intake which improves brain function and blood circulation. This reduces the risk of Alzheimer's which is a common disease among elderly people. It also reduces the risk of stroke. 

Social laughter has its own set of benefits. Not only does it reduce the risk of dementia, and the feeling of loneliness, but it also creates stronger bonds and friendships with the people in your life.  At times, socializing can be quite boring, and even exhausting. Yet, whenever someone cracks a joke, or lets some laughter loose, immediately the environment becomes more relaxed. In fact, Robert Provine, a psychologist at the University of Maryland found that we are 30 more times likely to laugh at something when we are surrounded by people. With stronger connections, our mutual and emotional health benefits. This creates a chain reaction of “happy-go-lucky feelings” as well as reducing the chance of depression and anxiety. 

This doesn’t have to be with just friends and family. A psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley by the name of Robert W. Levenson conducted a study regarding couples and their humor. He asked couples to tell their partner something they find annoying about them. Of course, some couples found it humorous and laughed, whereas others did not. Levenson found that the couples who laughed had higher levels of happiness and satisfaction within their relationship. They were also reported to be more likely to stay together longer. So maybe hitting up that new comedy club, or watching a rom-com you’ve been dying to watch with some friends, family, or partner wasn’t a bad idea after all?

Similarly, forced laughter is very useful. Although some may think it does not reap the benefits of actual laughter, your brain undergoes the same chemical changes, as if you are genuinely laughing. A study conducted by Georgia State University saw that when incorporating forced laughter, elderly people had a better mental state, and had more endurance for aerobic activities. Likewise, simulated laughter is what Laughter Yoga thrives on. Laughter Yoga developed by Madan Katari in Mumbai, India is a type of yoga typically done in a social setting, where people compel themselves to laugh. Despite there being no reason to do so, the simulated laughter soon becomes real. Additionally, when we see someone laugh, we start laughing too. This is because visually when we see someone laughing, the mirror neurons in our brain trigger us to laugh with them. This phenomenon is called Emotional Contagion. Therefore, laughter yoga brings joy and humor into your lives, while also practicing breathing exercises. 

Similar to Laughter Yoga, Laughter Therapy also thrives on simulated laughter. This type of therapy is mainly used for patients with depression, or stress-inducing physicological damages. Laughter decreases the stress-making hormones found in the body while releasing endorphins completely mitigating the feeling of stress. It is also accessible anywhere in the world and does not require a form of prerequisites at all. While strengthening the immune system, this type of therapy prevents other diseases from coming in, while supporting the body overall. Laughter therapy is best when done in social settings, and can be led by a trained therapist. 

Although laughter has many benefits inside and outside of the brain and body, many ask how we can implement it in our day-to-day lives. There are simple habits that can be done to do so. First off, smile more! Smiling creates such a positive environment, while also reminding you that whatever obstacle may come your way will make it the end of the world. Another way to enforce laughter is to get a pet or host a game night. Many times, pets can be so beneficial by having a sense of empathy, while also being quite humorous. When documenting these funny moments you can relive them when in times of distress. Gathering a group of friends and playing board games together allows you to get to know each other better, and starts some contagious laughter. However, be aware of what you are laughing about. If you are laughing at the expense of someone else, it can do detrimental things. Therefore, try to use your best judgment to decide whether a bad joke is worth laughing for or not. 

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