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The Surprising Science of Laughter: Its Health Benefits and Evolutionary Significance

How Laughing Affects Our Health

By Alvin EsguerraPublished 6 months ago 3 min read
The Surprising Science of Laughter: Its Health Benefits and Evolutionary Significance
Photo by Mihail Tregubov on Unsplash

Humor is very subjective, and some people laugh more easily than others. But one thing's for sure, laughter is a great gift. Some laughs are immediately recognized. We have Chewbacca laughing at one of Han Solo's mistakes, the annoying laugh from Janice, or Seth Rogen's infectious laughter. All of that positivity is highlighted in an article in Psychology Today. They conducted a study with 1,200 case studies and found that while both sexes laugh a lot, females laugh 126 percent more than their male counterparts. While women tend to do the most laughing, males tend to produce the most laughs.

Remember your high school class clown? Most likely, the clown was a male. Have you ever caught yourself laughing at inappropriate times? I know I have. That's because laughter is not under conscious control; it simply happens. Fight it all you want, but you'll probably lose.

According to Forbes magazine, laughter is a potent endorphin release. One of the most recent studies on laughter shows that laughing with others releases endorphins in the brain, our own feel-good chemicals, via opioid receptors. The more opioid receptors a person has in their brain, the more powerful the effect. This explains why social laughter is so contagious.

Want to be more heart smart? Well, put down those beta blockers and listen to your favorite comedian. It's true, research has shown that laughter has an anti-inflammatory effect that protects blood vessels and heart muscles from the damaging effects of cardiovascular disease. Though exactly how this happens isn't fully understood, hearty, regular laughter should probably be part of every heart disease prevention program.

Feeling a cold coming on? Oh no! Well, emergencies have got nothing on a good epic fail. A good guffaw has been proven to produce T cells, and when the T cells are activated, they fight off that nasty virus. So, the next time your throat starts to itch, add some chuckling to your illness prevention plan.

Tired of dieting and vigorous exercise? Well, I know I am. So, open up Netflix and watch an episode of The Office. Your abs will get a great workout with some robust laughter. The muscles in your stomach expand and contract, similar to when you're on an ab roller. Plus, the muscles you're not using have time to relax.

And what about your day at work? Having trouble meeting your deadlines? Well, good news! David Chan and Liu Wayne, Australian National University management professors, conducted a study about laughter in the workplace. They found that people who watched a funny video clip before a tedious task showed great perseverance. They were able to spend twice as long on a patient project compared to people who watched a neutral video. In the business world, many successful organizations, such as Apple, Virgin, and Google, deliberately build play areas into their workspaces and organize fun activities to alleviate the distressful nature of work. This boosts morale and increases productivity.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are some other great benefits of laughter too. It stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles. It fires up and then cools down your stress, leaving you feeling more relaxed. A good howl can stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation. It also produces its own painkillers. Laughter has so many great benefits. Go ahead and give it a try. Turn the corners of your mouth into a smile, and then let out a laugh. Even if it feels a little forced at first, take stock of how you're feeling afterward. That's the natural wonder of laughing.

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