Laughter was likely developed as a primitive, yet effective social evolutionary tool. It releases tension in arguments, builds bridges in disagreements, and makes it easier for us to forgive one another’s short-comings. There is a way to experience all the emotional and health benefits that accompany laughter – but, ideally, it is experienced collectively. It’s been proven that we are 30 times more likely to laugh when we are with others, rather than alone.
Even for the intuitive empaths among us – those of us who like to be alone, rather than in a crowd – this is a strong indication that we are meant to learn to thrive in the company of one another. Laughter, from an evolutionary standpoint, was rooted in survival, more than enjoyment, but ironically, it has developed into something that supports not only subsistence, but greater happiness. And it does it almost instantaneously.
Here’s how strong laughter truly is:
- Laughter increases the production of antibodies that increase immunity and fight infection.
- Laughter increases left-right brain coherence – something that is rare except among seasoned meditators.
- Laughter increases activity in the amygdala and hippocampus, areas of the brain largely responsible for friendship, love, affection, and regulating our mood.
- Even anticipation of laughter can increase happy-hormones like oxytocin and serotonin.
- Laughter releases endorphins in our bodies that are strong enough to act as natural pain killers.
- Laughter is a natural pick-me-up. If we’re feeling tired or depleted, laughter increases our oxygen intake, changes the chemical cocktail in our bodies, reduces stress, and allows focused, relaxed energy to come forward.
- Laughter decreases hormones that make you hungry.
- Laughter makes it easier to deal with impossible situations.
- Laughter reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow.
- Relationships last longer if the people involved in them laugh.
- Mirthful laughter helps to keep your memory strong.
- Laughter is mostly unconscious – we can’t laugh on demand, but we can open ourselves to greater experiences of laughter by engaging in social connection.
- Laughing promotes fertility.
- If you’re having trouble quieting your mind for meditation, laughter may be a good precursor. It increases gamma waves, which can improve focus and help you to calm those monkey-mind thoughts.
This doesn’t mean that laughter which erupts from your belly while sitting alone watching Netflix or the latest cat video on YouTube isn’t just as good for you, but you’re more likely to bubble over with laughter when you’re talking with friends.
That’s because laughter evolved as a form of communication. In studies, researchers found that laughter almost never interrupts conversation, but happens in short fits and starts, and in the pauses of spoken conversation, as a way to augment it.
It also turns out that people from completely different geographic locations, and cultural backgrounds understand one another’s laughter. So, laughter is a truly universal way to communicate.
Writer Anne Lammott called laughter, “carbonated holiness.” Comedian Milton Berle called laughter, “an instant vacation,” and with all its scientifically documented benefits, it’s clear we need more of it! But how?
- Hang out socially with funny people. If you don’t have any funny friends, interject humor and laughter into the social circles you already have.
- Wayne Dyer says it is impossible to be angry and laugh at the same time. When you find yourself stressed out, and near nuclear implosion emotionally, stop and find something that will make yourself laugh. Watch a funny video. Call a friend and tell them a stupid joke. Sit, and laugh at the ridiculousness of life.
- Mark Twain said that the best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up. Since laughter is contagious, if you make someone else laugh, it’s likely that you’ll laugh, too.
- Try laughter yoga. The brain knows the difference between real and fake laughter, but it also usually succumbs to real laughter when fake laughter is introduced. This is the premise behind laughter yoga.
- Stand on your head. If you want to change your perspective, nothing is as likely to make you laugh, or at least lighten up, than getting a rush of oxygenated blood to your brain. If you can’t do a headstand, go to the nearest playground and hang upside down from the monkey bars.