When was the last time you really roared with laughter? I hope it wasn’t so long ago that you don’t even remember it. I say that because laughter is good for us, both mentally and physically. Laughter activates the cardiovascular system, pumps more air into the lungs and brain, and reduces the sensation of pain. It also makes us feel less stressed – and when we laugh together, this has a positive impact on relationships. Read on to find out some fascinating and funny facts about laughter!
Before I had children (and when I had a lot more time…), I did some volunteering: I used to go to events and collect donations for https://ch.theodora.org/de. The Theodora Foundation funds and trains clowns who visit sick children in hospitals to cheer them up and transport them to a dream world, helping them to forget their illnesses for a moment. It is wonderful to see children laughing again when they have nothing much to laugh about because of their illness! At first, doctors were somewhat skeptical about the hospital clowns but over time, the medical staff – and above all the children – began to look forward to their weekly visits!
And why am I telling you all this in a business blog? The reason is simple: Laughter has a very positive physical and psychological impact on people – and in more ways that you might think.
Laughing gives the entire body a boost
So, what are the main impacts on the body?
- When we laugh, our lungs take in a lot of air. This increases the supply of oxygen to the whole body, which improves our ability to concentrate and increases circulation throughout the body.
- Laughter activates the entire cardiovascular system. First, it accelerates your heart rate. Then your heart starts to beat more slowly again, which helps you to relax and lowers your blood pressure. There is even a study that says that people who laugh often and enjoy laughing are 50% less likely to have a heart attack.
- Laughter stimulates the digestion by boosting the metabolism.
- Laughter has a positive impact on the immune system as it increases your resistance.
- The release of the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol decreases when we laugh. At the same time, laughter boosts the production of many ‘positive’ hormones: dopamine (motivation and active hormone), endorphins (increase performance), serotonin (creates a sense of wellbeing and confidence) and the relationship hormone oxytocin. Interestingly, the brain can’t distinguish between real and artificial laughter and also releases these happiness hormones when you hold a pencil between your lips so that the corners of your mouth turn upwards. According to one study, this method reduced the amount of medication that clinically depressed people had to take.
- Laughter reduces the sensation of pain. That is the reason why the hospital clowns have such a positive impact. Groucho Marx of the Marx Brothers once said: “A clown is like aspirin. Only he works twice as fast.” And that is without any negative side effects!
Humor and sadness never go hand in hand
What are the psychological and mental effects of laughter?
- When you laugh, you can’t be angry or sad at the same time. Humor creates an inner distance from your own problems. This gives you a new perspective and shows you a way out. And experience shows that more positive people act in a smarter and more far-sighted way than unhappy people. This means that laughter increases wellbeing and performance.
- Laughter also has a positive impact on stress by triggering feelings of happiness and simultaneously reducing annoyance and anxiety.
- When we laugh, the left hemisphere of the brain (responsible for language, logic and analytical thinking) and the right hemisphere of the brain (which controls intuition, creativity and emotions) are connected. You then think more holistically.
- When we laugh together as a group, this has a positive impact on relationships (in both our private and professional lives), as it eliminates inhibitions and repressed feelings and connects people.
- Since we are more relaxed after we laugh, this has a positive impact on our learning.
- People who laugh are perceived as being more attractive than individuals with a serious demeanor.
- And finally: Laughter is contagious. Watch this video and see for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP4abiHdQpc. I think almost no one could resist laughing along with this baby. Incidentally, the father is tearing up a rejection letter from a failed job application… And as you can see from the reaction of the father, who was probably disappointed before, it makes you happier if you make others laugh.
Children laugh as many as 400 times a day
Finally, here a few laughter-related facts and figures:
- When we laugh, we use around 300 muscles from head to toe. That includes 17 muscles in our faces alone and many others when we breathe. You may have experienced the feeling, as I have, of getting sore muscles in your diaphragm the day after a very funny evening… It has been proven that laughing has the same effect as half an hour of jogging because of the intense strain on many muscles.
- Children laugh between 200 and 400 times a day – but the average for adults is just 15 times. And 50 years ago, people laughed three times as often than they do today. It is high time for us to once again increase the frequency with which we laugh!
I leave it up to you to imagine how you can do this – it is also a question of preferences. I have decided to follow a tip from one reader of www.zeitblueten.com and record my children’s laughter on my smartphone.
P.S: If you want to know what makes me roar with laughter repeatedly (although I have seen it countless times before), take a look at the following video:
Heinz Rühmann, German actor: “Laughter is the currency of happiness.”
Charlie Chaplin, an English comedian: “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”
© Claudia Kraaz