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The benefits of laughter

Sarah Horrocks
by Sarah Horrocks Published on 19 January 2009
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We often say after a laughing fit that it does us good to laugh, but why?

What is laughter?

A good joke, comedy, mishap...it doesn’t take much for us to burst out laughing. When you laugh, your body receives positive signals. The contraction of the diaphragm stimulates the organs close by: the liver, spleen, stomach and intestines. Laughing also relaxes muscles in the face, neck, arms and abdomen. Dopamine, neuro transmitter which is fundamental to feeling pleasure, is released to the brain. And even if it is nervous laughter, the reactions that follow are relaxing because tension is lowered following the euphoria of laughing. A minute of uncontrollable laughter is equivalent to 45 minutes of relaxation, so we should get more laughter!

Laughter relieves pain

The benefits of laughter have been recognised in medicine for years (referred to as therapeutic laughter). The hormones released when we laugh energise us and lessen the sensation of pain, so laughing increases the pain threshold. Some researchers claim that it affects the immune system: when we laugh, antibodies increase in our saliva and this makes us less at less risk of infections such as colds.

Several studies, including one carried out by the University of Maryland in Baltimore, have shown that a sense of humour and laughing reduces the risk of cardiovascular illness and in particular heart attacks. Experts all agree that laughter reduces stress and tension.Doctors have recommended laughing for 10 minutes per day to stay in good health for longer, We do not fall in the average, however, given that we only laugh for around 1 minute a day! How much time do you spend laughing on a normal day?!

Laughter is good for you

Laughing acts as a social link. A burst of laughter communicates a feeling, whether between you and a colleague or a total stranger. More specifically, laughter give out information about you and the people around you. Psychologists say we have to know how to mock ourselves to remind ourselves that we're not always perfect. Knowing how to laugh at your mistakes helps you feel more comfortable and have fewer inhibitions, and learning how to put your ego in its place from time to time doesn't do any harm.We all laugh at different things, in different ways. Some express their laughter by slapping their thigh; others giggle more shyly, others guffaw with their mouth open or chuckle with a fixed grin. Laughter tells us about a person’s tastes and personality. Healthy laughter (not black humour) creates an atmosphere of trust and allows people to be freer. Try and laugh more today - it's good for you!

by Sarah Horrocks

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