Note: Is laughter essential to our lives as a human being? You bet it is! Enjoy. (Previous installments of all of my blogs can be found on my website at http://stevemarshallassociates.com/steves-blog/)
The Science Behind Laughter
Neurophysiology indicates that laughter is linked with the activation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, that produces endorphins. Scientists have shown that parts of the limbic system are involved in laughter. This system is involved in emotions and helps us with functions necessary for humans' survival. The structures in the limbic system that are involved in laughter: the hippocampus and the amygdala.
Health & Laughter
A link between laughter and healthy function of blood vessels was first reported in 2005 by researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center with the fact that laughter causes the dilatation of the inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium, and increases blood flow. Drs. Michael Miller (University of Maryland) and William Fry (Stanford), theorize that 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 cardioprotective properties of nitric oxide include reduction of inflammation and decreased platelet aggregation.
Laughter has proven beneficial effects on various other aspects of biochemistry. It has been shown to lead to reductions in stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. When laughing the brain also releases endorphins that can relieve some physical pain. Laughter also boosts the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T-cells, leading to a stronger immune system. A 2000 study found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh and be able to recognize humor in a variety of situations, compared to people of the same age without heart disease.
Psychology of Laughter
A general theory that explains laughter is called the relief theory. Sigmund Freud summarized it in his theory that laughter releases tension and "psychic energy". This theory is one of the justifications of the beliefs that laughter is beneficial for one's health. This theory explains why laughter can be used as a coping mechanism when one is upset, angry or sad.
Research on the positive effect of humor on health and perceptions of wellness has helped to identify why laughter helps us cope. The late Norman Cousins, well-known author of “Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient,” watched old Marx Brothers movies in addition to traditional medical intervention and promoted the idea that laughter has a symptom-relieving affect on patients in the short and long term. Since the late 1980s, a number of studies support the idea that laughter stimulates the immune system and counteracts the effects of stress hormones, although results are mixed about exactly how. In general, there’s agreement that it’s another way to arrive at the relaxation response.
This is no laughing matter!
Here is a warning for all of us; children tend to laugh an average of 400 times a day. For adults however, it is a totally different story.
A recent laughter study shows that; 64% of people smile less than 20 times a day at home and 72% smile less than 20 times a day at work. It gets worse. The International Congress of Humor found that laughter is down 66% - 82% worldwide from what it was in the 1950's. In the 1950's people laughed on average of 18 times a day. Today, we are lucky if we average between 4-6 times a day.
My prescription for today - get out more!
Research on 'humor and laughter has shown there is one common link between laughter and happiness. Real laughter always happens from interaction with others. A recent study found that people laugh 6 more times in the presence of one person and 30 more times in a group of people.
Sure you can get a chuckle from jokes you get on the Internet, but it is not the same as the belly jiggling, rib tickling laughter you get from when you interact with others.
Electronic media such as, television, computer, Internet, video, CD's, and audio equipment provide us with instant self-entertainment at the press of a button, where in the past people went outside their homes to entertain themselves.
The "You may need to get a life" laughter quiz:
Select your answers from the following options:
if never = 1
almost never = 2
seldom = 3
sometimes = 4
often = 5
almost always = 6
always = 7
Answer each question and remember, there are no right or wrong answers. This is just a guideline to give you a base to work from. Be honest with yourself; don't dwell on any question.
Make sure you select an answer for ALL the questions!
1. I have a lot of laughs____
2. I have a lot of fun____
3. I laugh at my own mistakes____
4. I think happy and fun thoughts____
5. I am spontaneous____
6. I like to hear and tell jokes____
7. I take myself lightly at work____
8. I like to watch and read humorous material_____
9.I take responsibility for my happiness____
10. I consider others feelings before I attempt any humor____
11. I surround myself with positive people_____
12. I plan time to play_____
13. I avoid offending people with my humor_____
14. I like to hear and tell 'funny' life and work experiences____
15. I use my sense of humor to deal with difficult situations____
16. I don't mind acting silly once in a while_____
17. I look forward to, and take regular vacations_____
18. I call a 'humor buddy' when I am in a 'down mood'_____
19. I use humor to deal with stress_____
20. I believe that laughing and humor are good for my health_____
Quiz total - total up your points scored________________
If you score between 115 - 140 you have an excellent sense of humor and attitude. You may not realize it, but you are a humor advocate and positively influence others with your humor.
If you score between 85 - 114 you have an average and healthy sense of humor.
If you score between 50 -84 you have a fair sense of humor. You are a little 'humor impaired' and can do with priming your sense of humor a notch or two.
If you score between 25 - 49 you are definitely 'humor impaired' and need to give this deficiency some very serious consideration.
if you score 24 or less you suffer from chronic 'seriousitis' and are in need of a dramatic 'humor infusion.
How did you score on this quiz?
Next week: The Norman Cousins Story