Have you found yourself laughing lately with someone else about something you didn't find especially funny? This probably happened because researchers have shown that laughter is contagious. Let's explore why laughter is contagious and why laughter is so good for you.
What is laughter? Laughter is the physiological response to humor. Research shows that the sound of laughter triggers a strong response in the brain and automatically primes us to smile or laugh. Once the initial smile begins, our brains want more and that stimulates the neural circuits in our brain to generate even more laughter. Our brains activate an automatic response and this is why we reflexively imitate someone laughing even if we are not feeling the same emotion that they are.
Some scientists think that laughter may have been a precursor to language. It is thought that laughter was used by our early ancestors as an important way to show friendliness. Today, laughter still helps us interact socially and helps us build strong bonds. The more laughter in a group, the more bonding occurs in that group.
In fact, laughter usually occurs in groups. Try to laugh out loud right now. Do you find it difficult or forced? Laughter is an involuntary action and it is very difficult to fake. Studies have shown that people in social settings are more likely to laugh than people who are alone (not including people in pseudo-social situations like watching TV). We may find things funny when we're by ourselves but when we're alone we're more likely to smile or talk to ourselves rather than laugh out loud. In many instances, laughter is a shared experience.
What are some of the benefits of this shared laughter? As a physiological response, there are many reasons that laughter is beneficial to our health. Research shows that laughter functions as a stress reduction technique by lessening the levels of certain stress hormones that suppress the immune system and raise blood pressure. By lowering blood pressure and boosting the immune system, laughter may help prevent life-threatening diseases like heart failure.
Laughter is also good exercise! Laughter gives your diaphragm and respiratory, facial, and back muscles a workout. In 15 minutes, laughter burns between 10 to 40 calories by generating extra movement and increasing your heart rate. This is one of the more fun exercises that you can do!
In addition to the health benefits, laughter generates feelings of happiness and often helps us feel more positive about life. A laughter break can take us out of our problems and allow us to gain fresh perspectives and new insights.
Most of us would agree with the old saying that laughter is the best medicine. Share contagious laughter and help make others and yourself healthier and happier!
How well do you treat yourself? As a personal and spiritual coach, Georgiana Carollus has a keen interest in inspiring people to recognize their own brilliance and to treat themselves as well as they treat their friends and loved ones. Visit http://www.FriendYourselfProject.com to find practical tips and to subscribe to a free Daily Moment of Inspiration!.© 2012 Georgiana Carollus
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