The Science of Laughter
Laughing is something we do numerous times a day without a second thought. Whether we are with friends, watching a funny movie or simply reacting to something that catches us off guard. There is much more behind the infectious response than the loud, quirky and eccentric sounds that come with it. The power of incorporating laughter into your day-to-day routine has huge implications for the quality of your life in the broadest sense. Let’s look further.
Recognizing the impact of laughter’s effects on things such as stress, happiness and health, we at Sage Collective appreciate its importance, especially in relation to our 9 Ways of Vibrant Living.
Why do we laugh?
Throughout history, laughter has been seen as a social signal. There are many factors that can affect what we find humorous including age, gender, culture or community. Laughter presents itself in most human interactions as the presence of connectivity, comfortability and the strengthening of a shared or mutual relationship. Furthermore, research shows that the more laughter that is present in those relationships, the stronger those connections or bonds become.
The prevailing theory is that there are three types of scenarios that make us laugh: incongruity, superiority and relief. Incongruity theory is rooted in the idea of expecting one outcome, and receiving a totally different one — resulting in laughter. Superiority theory explains that we might find someone else’s weaknesses or mistakes humorous, making us feel superior to them in the moment. Last, relief theory is the use of comedy in tough or uncomfortable situations in order to relieve stress or tension. If you reflect back on what made you laugh today, do you see the reasons falling into one of these categories?
The health benefits of laughing
There are tangible health and wellness benefits for individuals and communities when we all spend more time laughing. From a purely biological perspective, when we laugh, our bodies reduce the levels of stress hormones, in turn lowering our physical stress and anxiety. At the same time, the action also releases serotonin, which leaves us feeling euphoric. As stress hormones diminish, we lower blood pressure and increase blood flow — which directly leads to the oxygenation of our blood to provide us with more energy.
Incorporating more laughter in your life
Wondering how to add laughter to your life? Start by considering the concept of humor and its relationship to laughter.
Merriam-Webster defines humor as “the mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous: the ability to be funny or to be amused by things that are funny.” However, because humor is so subjective, it’s nearly impossible to give it a clear-cut definition. Let’s just say that laughter is the direct reaction or acknowledgment that someone has found something humorous.
For some, laughter may come easy. For others, it might be more difficult to find humor in life. Either way, here are some tips for learning to laugh more.
One of the easiest ways to find laughter is to surround yourself with people who you find funny and entertaining, but with whom you already have a comfortable and strong relationship. Discovering things that make you laugh throughout your daily life and experiencing them more is also a great way to easily find humor. This might be found in the radio station you listen to on your daily drive, or a television show you play in the background while you do chores at home. And if laughter doesn’t come easily for you, consider laughter therapy — it’s a new form of searching for a chuckle by training yourself to look for humor in uncomfortable and difficult situations, rooted in laughter’s relief theory. There are lots of resources available online, and even apps you can download to your phone!
So even if you aren’t the traditional joking type of person or you find it hard to see the comedy in hard situations, dig deep and look for the laughter in your life. You won’t regret it.