I bet you did not know that adults only laugh 17 times a day, compared to children who laugh 300 times a day, according to information provided by the Cooperative Extension Service at University of Kentucky. It is a figure that forces me to believe, as adults, we should be laughing much more in our daily lives.
Can you remember the last time you laughed so hard your stomach hurt? What about the last time you laughed so hard you had to stop and catch your breath? Have you ever laughed so much that you were unable to speak? If you cannot find an answer to any of these questions, this article is for you.
As a full-time student, friend, daughter and older sibling, I experience many of the same feelings that my peers face daily. We are almost finished with the spring semester and summer is right around the corner. Deadlines are quickly approaching as personal issues continue to pile on our shoulders. We continue to struggle at finding ways to make us laugh and lighten our moods. Last night, however, I found myself rolling on the floor with laughter as my roommate and I taunted our kitten with a red laser pointer. As we loudly giggled away our worries, I was reminded of the powerful effects laughter can have on our bodies.
On the neurophysiological level, laughter is linked with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain that produce endorphins. Often, laughter tends to occur when we are in groups of family members or friends. It is a response that can be easily identified amongst different cultures. Fascinatingly, we could record laughter, the sound could be played backward and people would still recognize it. People in different cultures could also easily identify the familiar sound of laughter.
Did you know that 10 minutes of laughter everyday could burn as many calories as a 30-minute workout? In fact, Dr. William Fry of Psychiatry at Stanford University says 10 minutes on a rowing machine is the equivalence of laughing for 10 minutes. Similar to “internal jogging,” laughter provides the body with abdominal, facial, and back conditioning of the muscles. So, the answer is no, you are not imagining that sore feeling you get in your gut after you have laughed for too long.
Laughter also has other positive effects on our body. As studied by Lee Bark of Loma Linda University, laughter can result in the increase of antibodies that fight infection within our immune system. Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford University, reported that laughter can also help reduce pain.
The activity of laughter also creates heavy breathing. As a result, oxygen-enriched blood and nutrients are pushed throughout our body every time we laugh. Also, it is reported that people who laugh regularly often have a much lower blood pressure than those who do not laugh frequently.
As I was reminded last night, laughing also has wonderful effects on our souls and stress levels. During frustrating times, it can often improve our mood by dissolving anger or stress. Stress hormones are also released as we laugh. The decrease in neuroendocrine hormones like epinephrine, cortisol and dopamine help control our stress level. Often, humor creates a bond between many people. More often than not, people are attracted to the positive and cheerful energy that laughter brings.
Lastly, laughter can help us lower blood pressure and strengthen our immune systems. It can take the edge off a stressful situation and make us much healthier people mentally and physically. Without a doubt, we need to spend more time laughing and less time stressing in our everyday lives.
And while some may not find humor in kittens and red laser pointers, it is important we all find reasons to laugh. Whether it is watching a funny movie or playing games with children, we must continue to increase the laughter in our lives. It is an activity that can connect individuals while also making us feel better within both on the mental and physical level.
Originally published for the Western Courier by free-lance writer Victoria Hall.