Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D. says, “Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.”
Laughing serves as an emotional balancing mechanism to relax you from your mental tension. Traditionally, it is considered a visual expression of happiness, or an inward feeling of joy. It may ensue from hearing a joke, being tickled, or other stimuli. It is in most cases a very pleasant sensation.
Laughter is a mechanism everyone has; laughter is part of universal human vocabulary. There are thousands of languages, hundreds of thousands of dialects, but everyone speaks laughter in pretty much the same way.” Babies have the ability to laugh before they ever speak. Children who are born blind and deaf still retain the ability to laugh.
Laughter causes the dilatation of the inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium, and increases blood flow. Beta-endorphin like compounds released by the hypothalamus activate receptors on the endothelial surface to release nitric oxide, thereby resulting in dilation of vessels. Other cardio-protective properties of nitric oxide include reduction of inflammation and decreased platelet aggregation. Common causes for laughter are sensations of joy and humor; however, other situations may cause laughter as well.
Laughter is called the relief theory. Laughter releases tension and "psychic energy". It is beneficial for your health. It can be used as a coping mechanism when one is upset, angry or sad.
Laughter may have its biological origins as a kind of shared expression of relief at the passing of danger. A joke, if it is able to communicate the message clearly, creates an inconsistency and the audience automatically tries to understand what the inconsistency means; if they are successful in solving this 'cognitive riddle' and they realize that the surprise was not dangerous, they laugh with relief. Otherwise, if the inconsistency is not resolved, there is no laugh. When the audience is confused, it doesn't laugh.
This is one of the basic laws of a comedian, referred to "exactness". It is important to note that sometimes the inconsistency may be resolved and there may still be no laugh. Because laughter is a social mechanism, an audience may not feel as if they are in danger, and the laugh may not occur. In addition, the extent of the inconsistency (and aspects of it timing and rhythm) has to do with the amount of danger the audience feels, and how hard or long they laugh. This explanation is confirmed by modern neurophysiology in the study of laughter and the brain.
Laughter can also be brought on by tickling. Although it is found unpleasant by most people, being tickled often causes heavy laughter which is thought to be a reflex of the body, and is often uncontrollable
Laughter Yoga is a form of yoga employing self-triggered laughter. The "laughter" is physical in nature, and does not necessarily involve humor or comedy.
Laughter Yoga combines Unconditional Laughter with Yogic Breathing (Pranayama). Anyone can laugh without any reason, without relying on humor, jokes or comedy. Under this yoga, laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group; with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter. The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.
Laughter is easily stimulated in a group when combined with eye contact, childlike playfulness and laughter exercises. Fake laughter quickly becomes real. Laughter Yoga brings more oxygen to the body and brain by incorporating yogic breathing which results in deep diaphragmatic breathing. Laughter Yoga is based on the concept that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter - physiologically and psychologically the benefits are identical.
Laughter is initially simulated as a physical exercise while maintaining eye contact with others in the group and promoting childlike playfulness. In most cases this soon leads to real and contagious laughter. Under Laughter Yoga, sessions start with gentle warm-up techniques which include stretching, chanting, clapping and body movement. These help break down inhibitions and develop feelings of childlike playfulness. Breathing exercises are used to prepare the lungs for laughter, followed by a series of ‘laughter exercises’ that combine the method of acting and visualization techniques with playfulness. These exercises, when combined with the strong social dynamics of group behavior, lead to prolonged and hearty unconditional laughter. Laughter exercises are interspersed with breathing exercises. Twenty minutes of laughter is sufficient to develop full physiological benefits.
A Laughter Yoga session may finish with "Laughter Meditation." This is a session of unstructured laughter whereby participants sit or lie down and allow natural laughter to flow from within like a fountain. This is a powerful experience that often leads to a healthy emotional catharsis and also a feeling of release and joyfulness that can last for days. This can be followed by guided relaxation exercises.
Laughter is good for your health.
Humor Therapy: It is also known as therapeutic humor. Using humorous materials such as books, shows, movies, or stories to encourage spontaneous discussion of the patients' own humorous experiences. This can be provided individually or in a group setting. The process is facilitated by a clinician. There can be a disadvantage to humor therapy in a group format, as it can be difficult to provide materials that all participants find humorous. It is important that the clinician is sensitive, laughing "with" clients rather than "at" the clients.
Laughter Therapy: Clients' laughter triggers are identified such as people in their lives, things from childhood, situations, movies, jokes, comedians, etc. that make them laugh. Based on the information provided by the client, the clinician creates a personal humor profile to aid in the laughter therapy. In this one on one setting, the client is taught basic exercises that can be practiced. The intent of the exercises is to remind the importance of relationships and social support. It is important the clinician is sensitive to what the client perceives as humorous.
Laughter Meditation: In laughter meditation there are some similarities to traditional meditation. However, it is the laughter that focuses the person to concentrate on the moment. Through a three stage process of stretching, laughing and/or crying, and a period of meditative silence. In the first stage, the person places all energy into stretching every muscle without laughter. In the second stage, the person starts with a gradual smile, and then slowly begins to purposely belly laugh or cry, whichever occurs. In the final stage, the person abruptly stops laughing or crying, then with their eyes now closed they breathe without a sound and focus their concentration on the moment. The process is approximately a 15 minute exercise. This may be awkward for some people as the laughter is not necessarily spontaneous. This is generally practiced on an individual basis.
Humor is infectious. The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. In addition to the domino effect of joy and amusement, laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.
Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.
With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.
Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
The Benefits of Laughter
Physical Health Benefits:
· Boosts immunity
· Lowers stress hormones
· Decreases pain
· Relaxes your muscles
· Prevents heart disease
Mental Health Benefits:
· Adds joy and zest to life
· Eases anxiety and fear
· Relieves stress
· Improves mood
· Enhances resilience
· Strengthens relationships
· Attracts others to us
· Enhances teamwork
· Helps defuse conflict
· Promotes group bonding
Laughter makes you feel good. And the good feeling that you get when you laugh remains with you even after the laughter subsides. Humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.
More than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh–or even simply a smile–can go a long way toward making you feel better. And laughter really is contagious—just hearing laughter primes your brain and readies you to smile and join in on the fun.
The link between laughter and mental health
Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering emotional connection. When we laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment.
Laughing with others is more powerful than laughing alone
Shared laughter is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. All emotional sharing builds strong and lasting relationship bonds, but sharing laughter and play adds joy, vitality, and resilience. And humor is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Laughter unites people during difficult times.
Using humor and laughter in relationships allows you to:
Be more spontaneous. Humor gets you out of your head and away from your troubles.
Let go of defensiveness. Laughter helps you forget judgments, criticisms, and doubts.
Release inhibitions. Your fear of holding back and holding on are set aside.
Express your true feelings. Deeply felt emotions are allowed to rise to the surface.
Laughter and Relationships
Mutual laughter and play are an essential component of strong, healthy relationships. By making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your love relationships— as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends.
Bringing more humor and laughter into your life by Creating opportunities to laugh through the following methods:
· Watch a funny movie or TV show.
· Go to a comedy club.
· Read the funny pages.
· Seek out funny people.
· Share a good joke or a funny story.
· Check out your bookstore’s humor section.
· Host game night with friends.
· Play with a pet.
· Go to a “laughter yoga” class.
· Goof around with children.
· Do something silly.
· Make time for fun activities (e.g. bowling, miniature golfing, karaoke).
Be Happy – Let Your Laughter Restore Your Mental Peace.