On World Laughter Day, Preeja Aravind lists why everyone should laugh more often
With all the pesticides and whatnot in it, apple a day doesn’t have much sway — it’s laughter that has more capacity to keep the doctor away. Turns out there is actual science behind why laughter is indeed the best medicine. We have all seen them, and laughed at those videos with cats, dogs and babies. So here are more reasons why we should watch them often and get our daily dose of laughter:
It is a workout
You heard right, laughter burns calories. When we laugh, we are strengthening the muscles in our face, stomach and diaphragm. Studies confirm that laughing for just 15 minutes can burn up to 40 calories. Which means it is as effective as daily yoga of 10 minutes! So, breathe deep and give your belly that happy rumble. However, don’t abandon your gym just yet: You can burn more calories, and you might want to recruit your gym mates as your laughing buddies.
It is contagious
Laughter’s contagion factor was discovered by a neuroscientist at University College London, who monitored subjects’ brains while playing them sounds of laughter. It was found that the premotor cortical region of the brain, which prepares the muscles in the face to move (laugh or smile) is activated every time the brain registers laughter — even taped ones. And we tend to laugh up to 30 percent more if we are in company. No wonder there are so many laughter clubs!
Have you made friends for life over something funny? It’s because laughing creates instant bond between people. When you laugh as a group, or with someone else, there is a natural connection all around. It also helps overcome the social anxiety some might feel being among strangers. Laughter keeps couples together too. Research shows that couples who laugh and smile, especially while discussing a matter of gravity, tend to be more satisfied within their relationship.
Keeps diseases away
A bellyful of laughter promotes health. The wholehearted guffaw, as we say, helps our body fight off harmful diseases — by altering the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in our body, and puts T-cells (cells that make up our immune system) into action to immediately start defending our bodies against diseases. Research has shown that laughing can treat up to 60 percent of the common diseases including common cold or viral fever — even the silent killer called hypertension!
Helps us live longer
Being hale and hearty is what most of us aim for. But as we age our hearts are supposedly aging too, and vigorous workouts might not be best for it. Some studies report that laughing for at least 15 minutes daily, can add about 2 days to our overall lifespan. Which is where laughter comes into picture: it is not exactly a substitute for regular physical activity, but it can make our hearts pump as much as while walking at an unhurried pace.
Even rats laugh…
So do primates and babies; why shouldn’t you as an adult? In fact, research shows children laugh at least 13 times more than adults. And, though, less obvious to detect, many animals also experience something akin to laughter. Research has found out that rats laugh when they’re tickled, and the more they play together, the more they laugh. Apes also have been laughing for about 10 million years. We have better brains, so we should let it laugh more, shouldn’t we?
Keeps depression at bay
Laughter triggers release of endorphins, the most required hormones that promote a sense of well-being as well as reduce our overall stress and anxiety. There are some experts that claim laughter increases our creativity as it encourages a new perspective to look at things. There is even something called laughter therapy—as a part of hasyayoga—which is the underlying principle of several laughter clubs across the world. Statistics prove that in over 70 percent cases of clinical depression, humour has helped patients from becoming too overwhelmed.
It is a brain booster
Laughter and our brain has a deep relationship. Laughing helps in short-term memory boost, as well as aids in learning process. Researchers at California’s Loma Linda University found that laughing helped those in the 60s and 70s, retain more information when compared with the grumpy grouch group, who didn’t get to laugh as much. Not just older people, children as young as 18 months, too, benefit from laughing. A 2015 survey showed that toddlers who laughed while doing or watching something had better retention, attention and perception.
As good as caffeine
By altering the levels of cortisol in our body, laughing lowers our levels of stress and fights off things that might be harmful to us. Next time you run out of coffee in the morning, try watching a sitcom or a comedian’s routine; apparently laughing shortly after waking up can have similar effects to drinking a cup of coffee. Let’s try to notice how laughing first thing in the morning (you can take a call whether to brush your teeth or not while doing this) might actually be refreshing.