HomeHealthWhat Makes Us Laugh? The History of Laughter and the Science Behind...

What Makes Us Laugh? The History of Laughter and the Science Behind Its Medicinal Effects

Whether you laugh is a guffaw, chuckle, chortle, cackle, roar, howl or giggle, the ability to laugh is shared by all people around the world. Humans even share this ability with apes and other primates, suggesting the ability to laugh goes back millions of years to a shared ancestor. Although the jokes people tell have shifted and developed throughout history, laughter’s positive benefits are unaltered.

How do laughter and humor affect our health?

Laughter may really be the best medicine due to its positive effects on your physical, mental and emotional health. Laughing is so beneficial to health that laughter therapy has even become an alternative approach to treating depression, stress and other mood disorders. 

Gelotology is the term used to describe the study of laughter, a field developed in the late 1960s, which examines the physiological and psychological effects of humor. 

Yogaja Yoga in Toledo, 3145 W Central Ave., talks about the importance of laughter through its website, discussing how it can be an important and effective tool to communicate with others. “We have thousands of spoken languages in our world, and even when we can’t understand the speech of another, laughter and tears are a clear form of communication. They are a universal language,” Yogaja’s staff said.

Here are a few of the benefits of laughter that have been scientifically determined to effect mental, physical, and emotional health include:

  • Increased endorphin levels.
  • Increased production of immune cells and antibodies.
  • Decreased levels of stress-causing hormones like cortisol and epinephrine.
  • Improved memory.
  • A refreshing mental break that helps replenish mental resources.
  • Strengthened social bonds.
  • Increased intake of oxygen, which stimulates organs.
  • Reduced muscle tension.
  • Ability to better handle scary or stressful situations.

The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor is a non-profit organization started by a group of psychologists who promote the use of humor to support improved health and well-being. They have an extensive research library that shares academic research related to the benefits of humor and laughter.

RELATED: How to Find a Mental Health Care Provider You Trust

Counselor and stand up comedian, Richard Granirer, of Stand Up for Mental Health, uses stand up comedy to educate the public about mental health and reduce the stigma around it. He also teaches those with mental health issues or disorders to utilize their struggles to create comedy, which gives them a sense of control and self-worth.

How has humor changed over time?

Humor as a source of laughter has been around as long as humans have been able to communicate. According to Robert R. Provine, a laughter expert, “The necessary stimulus for laughter is not a joke, but another person.” Laughter seems to have evolved as an essential part of social interaction, even if it does not happen face-to-face.

Humor has always dealt with “taboos,” witty retorts, pointing out ironies, making light of difficulties or coming at someone’s expense. The format of jokes may change, and the details may shift to reflect the times, but the basic elements remain the same. Throughout history, humor has developed to reflect the times as people used laughter to connect. What people find funny varies based on individual and shared experiences. Humor generally reflects current events and stages of life and can be a way to relate to others. 

Jokes and humorous content have also been shared in a variety of different ways, depending on the technology available. Humor can be shared in any way that people communicate. Today, humor can be shared far and wide through the internet and social media in the form of memes or videos.

Humor and laughter are universal and they are vital parts of a happy and healthy life. Keep your spirits up by finding ways to keep laughing. Socialize with people who make you laugh for a boost. Sign up for a daily joke or comic strip. Follow your favorite comedian. Keep a running list of books, songs, tv shows, or movies that make you laugh. Laughter makes for a better and healthier life.

Recent Articles