In a world that is plagued by war, famine, disease, and other seemingly relentless tensions, it is often hard to crack a smile when we are constantly being reminded of the evil stretching across the globe. This is not a conducive environment for human health and happiness, and yet, international events are a part of reality and must be confronted. So how do we decrease the stress, anxiety, and anger associated with this adverse atmosphere? The answer just may be laughter.
When we talk about laughing, giggling, snickering, or even letting out a little titter, many people think of comedy shows, memorable times with friends, jokes, or maybe heart-warming movies such as Robin William’s 1998 film, “Patch Adams.” However, we usually do not think of the vital anatomic role that laughter plays in our bodies.
For doctor Robin Dunbar, his study of laughter all started with a simple question: do we laugh because we feel giddy or do we feel giddy because we laugh? To find an answer to this ancient inquiry, he conducted an experiment in which he put a freezing wine sleeve (a constantly tightening blood pressure cuff) around the arms of an array of willing participants. He then separated them into two groups, showing one group comedic videos, and the other feel-good or neutral videos. After the results were in, data showed that laughing caused an increase in the body’s release of endorphins, or the brain’s “feel good” chemical, consequently reducing pain and increasing happiness.
However, the expansive list of benefits does not end there. In more recent years, a load of other effects have been suggested by professionals in the field, and these have been categorized under physical, cognitive, emotional, and social areas. As there are so many in each category, here are just a few benefits; reduced stress, increased relaxation response, creativity, ability to cope with stress, hope, optimism, energy, and last but not least, kindness.
But what is the ultimate purpose of laughter? It is believed to be unity, also explaining why laughing has been a characteristic favored by evolution for many primates over the past hundreds of years. Just like singing and dancing, laughing catalyzes human interaction and builds relationships that are essential for one’s well being and physical health.
So, how do you laugh more? Isn’t laughter little more than an involuntary response to humor or situation? It was actually recently proven that the human brain cannot tell the difference between fake laughter and genuine laughter. It is that very fact that led to me create a laughing club at my school this past year. As funny (no pun intended) as this sounds, increased grades, relationships, and learning are direct results of this activity.
And how is it done? One day every week, I and all other participants get together in a room. At a typical meeting, a video may be watched or a joke told; and as awkward or cheesy as it may sound, somebody invariably begins laughing. Before long, everybody is bursting out, finding immense humor in the people around them and the silliness of the situation in general. This will continue for about ten minutes until students and faculty come back down and proceed with their day more happy, more relaxed, and more focused.
This is no new idea. Although laugh therapy has been growing in popularity more recently, studies of laughter and laugh therapies have been around for decades, despite often being neglected. Because of this, it is a hope of mine as a young student growing up in such a turbulent world to bring laughter exercises back into the spot light, hopefully expediting the healing of the many cross-cultural wounds we witness today.
While laughter may not directly solve the issues of world hunger, violence, or sickness, a few simple giggles and a smile will not only increase one’s productivity and mental and physical health, but it will also spread happiness to others. Uniting the world one smile at a time, we can build a more cohesive environment in which to tackle problems. After all, laughter is the one language that we have all shared since our very beginnings regardless of culture, location, or disposition. It’s time that we start to utilize laughter’s true power.
If you are inspired to start a club of your own or have any questions, I have listed a few helpful websites below and you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Written By: Isaac Pacor
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