The sense in humour

Don’t you love being around people with a sense of humour?

Some people seem to have the natural gift of finding something to laugh about, even when things look glum. Being around funny people helps us to take life a little less seriously.

Humour not only lifts our mood – it also changes our perspective. To see the funny side of something, you have to be standing in a different place, figuratively speaking. Instead of feeling stuck or weighed down, you’re like a fly on the wall, able to see what’s going on without being personally affected.

Comedy acts often centre around situations that are very familiar to us – the more we recognise the situation, the more we laugh. Humour has us seeing these situations from a new angle. Often what we’re really laughing at is ourselves and our human foibles.

Humour is infectious, which is why we love being around funny people. So if you don’t have a comedian in your midst, try watching funny movies or reading jokes – and become a joy germ yourself.

Laughter really is the best medicine

Gelotology – the physiological study of laughter – has shown that laughter reduces the levels of harmful stress hormones and increases the levels of Gamma-interferon, T-cells, B-cells, and other natural killer cells that fight tumours and viruses. Immunoglobulin A, which is found in saliva and defends against infectious organisms, is also increased when we laugh. So the more we laugh, the stronger our immune system.

Laughter is also a total body workout, exercising the diaphragm, abdomen, face, back and leg muscles. Laughter researcher William Fry found that it took ten minutes on a rowing machine to raise the heart rate to the level it reached after just one minute of hearty laughter. Ten to fifteen minutes’ laughing burns 50 calories.

According to researcher Michael Miller, people who laugh often are less likely to develop heart disease. Laughter also reduces blood pressure, lowers blood sugar levels, helps promote relaxation and sleep, and acts as a natural pain killer.

Although we all have different laughs – some of which are quite distinctive! – all human laughter consists of variations of short, vowel-like sounds repeated every 210 milliseconds. The sound of this is infectious, causing others to laugh too. Laughing is therefore a social phenomenon. In fact, we are 30 times more likely to laugh in company than when alone.

Children are said to laugh between 200-300 times a day; adults between 17 and 100 times. I was surprised at this statistic – I don’t tend to hear 17 jokes in a day, let alone 100. But it turns out most of our laughter is not at jokes, but at everyday comments like: “Where have you been?” spoken in a humorous way.

To read more about increasing your laughter rate, Help Guide has an excellent web page: Laughter tips

Keep on laughing!

Social benefits of laughter

In the last newsletter I wrote about the health benefits of laughter; today I’ll talk about the social benefits.

After studying 1,200 people laughing spontaneously, Robert Provine concluded that the main purpose of laughter is to bind people together. It’s an instinctive language that we all speak. We laugh when others are laughing, we laugh at things other people say and we laugh at the things we say ourselves when we want to make other people laugh.

Laughter defuses tension and deflects anger. In an embarrassing situation, it can rescue your dignity. A laugh shows that you trust the people you’re with. There’s a snowball effect – the more laughter there is in a group, the more comfortable people feel with one another, leading to more laughter.

Laughter is made to be shared – we laugh 30 times more often in company. One experiment showed that even laughing gas, which can have people rolling about with laughter, loses most of its effect when taken alone. (I’m trying to picture this experiment: rows of isolated cubicles occupied by sad loners, unable to crack a smile as they talk to themselves in silly high pitched voices.)

Since laughter is catching, it seems a good idea to spend time with people, preferably happy ones. And if the people you’re with aren’t laughing much, you can start the snowball effect with a giggle of your own.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Remember the old saying: Laughter is the best medicine? Well, it’s true.

Gelotology – the physiological study of laughter – has shown that laughter reduces the levels of harmful stress hormones and increases the levels of Gamma-interferon, T-cells, B-cells, and other natural killer cells that fight tumours and viruses. Immunoglobulin A, which is found in saliva and defends against infectious organisms, is also increased when we laugh. So the more we laugh, the stronger our immune system.

Laughter is also a total body workout, exercising the diaphragm, abdomen, face, back and leg muscles. Laughter researcher William Fry found that it took ten minutes on a rowing machine to raise the heart rate to the level it reached after just one minute of hearty laughter. Ten to fifteen minutes’ laughing burns 50 calories.

According to researcher Michael Miller, people who laugh often are less likely to develop heart disease. Laughter also reduces blood pressure, lowers blood sugar levels, helps promote relaxation and sleep, and acts as a natural pain killer.

Although we all have different laughs – some of which are quite distinctive! – all human laughter consists of variations of short, vowel-like sounds repeated every 210 milliseconds. The sound of this is infectious, causing others to laugh too. Laughing is therefore a social phenomenon. In fact, we are 30 times more likely to laugh in company than when alone.

Children are said to laugh between 200-300 times a day; adults between 17 and 100 times. I was surprised at this statistic – I don’t tend to hear 17 jokes in a day, let alone 100. But it turns out most of our laughter is not at jokes, but at everyday comments like: “Where have you been?” spoken in a humorous way.

To read more about increasing your laughter rate, Help Guide has an excellent web page: http://www.helpguide.org/life/humor_laughter_health.htm.

Keep on laughing!