Just in time for April Fools’ Day, and the International Day of Laughter, coming up on April 14th, we’re devoting ourselves to laughter. What makes people chuckle, giggle, or guffaw? Get a glimpse into the science behind your next case of the giggles, as well as some of the benefits of laughter.
Why Do We Laugh?
For something we do so frequently, laughter is a bit of a curious phenomenon: babies do it early on, way before they begin to speak, we can’t control when we laugh, and a pretense at laughter is usually fairly obvious.
More than that, says Robert Provine, Ph.D., author of the book Laughter, “most laughter does not follow jokes” and acts as a sort of punctuation to our speech, occurring in the pauses between sentences (and not mid-sentence or mid-word).
The reasons for laughter are mysterious, and may be a behavior evolved from the panting of our ape ancestors, posits Dr. Provine.
The Benefits of Laughter
They say laughter makes the best medicine, and while the reasons behind our laughter may be cloaked in mystery, there is much evidence that laughter is good for us. Some of the major benefits are:
- Relieves stress: Laughter has a major impact on stress hormones – reducing them sharply. As well, it boosts the all-important endorphins, which trigger good feelings in your body. All that, and it’s also contagious: a good laugh can make those around you feel good too.
- Boosts creativity: A good laugh can also increase your creativity and problem-solving abilities; Psychology Today reports that laughter helps with brainstorming and can lead to more “a-ha!” moments.
- Increases pain tolerance: Studies report that laughing also has a physiological impact: have a good laugh, and your sense of pain will be reduced; this is likely a result of the powerful, positive endorphins released in your body from giggles.
- Improves relationships: In many ways, laughter is a way to help people make connections. That moment of a shared sense of humor, and the comfort in snickering together, is powerful to a relationship. But as well, Provine points out, laughing at people is a way to enforce the dynamic of the group; laughter is a powerful tool for societal relationships. There’s also evidence that laughter – especially together – can lead to healthier marriages.
- A funny workout: A good laugh can boost your heartbeat, and as well, some studies have found that laughing may burn calories. Unfortunately, watching a sitcom won’t give you all the calorie-burning force of a trip to the gym.
So think twice before skipping all April Fools’ Day pranks – after all, those moments of laughter may lead to some significant health and emotional benefits.
How do you get your giggles on? Share your favorite ways to get a laugh in every day on social media.