Daily Grateful: November 29, 2013

Laughter is contagious!

We’ve all been there: one person starts laughing at something, then another, then another, and soon, hilarity ensues. But why? We all know that laughter is contagious, but what’s the reason for it? Turns out that it’s the same reason that people respond to negative stimuli, neural stimuli, and positive stimuli at the group level. According to Adjunct Professor Lauri Nummenmaa from Aalto University:

“Sharing others’ emotional states provides the observers a somatosensory and neural framework that facilitates understanding others’ intentions and actions and allows to ‘tune in’ or ‘sync’ with them. Such automatic tuning facilitates social interaction and group processes.

“The results have major implications for current neural models of human emotions and group behavior, but also deepen our understanding of mental disorders involving abnormal socioemotional processing. [source]

Laughing can release endorphins; natural opiates in your body that can help reduce the stress hormone cortisol–a well known “fight or flight” hormone that is linked to exhaustion and depression.This experience has been linked to an evolved as an early bonding mechanism.

Makes sense to me. Here’s an example of hoe people people tend to “sync up” – enjoy.

According to WebMD, the last few decades has revealed that laughter can have the following impacts on the body:

Blood flow. Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally — expanding and contracting easily. But the blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.

Immune response. Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response, says Provine. Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, as well.

Blood sugar levels. One study of 19 people with diabetes looked at the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended a tedious lecture. On the next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after the lecture.

Relaxation and sleep. The focus on the benefits of laughter really began with Norman Cousin’s memoir, Anatomy of an Illness. Cousins, who was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful spine condition, found that a diet of comedies, like Marx Brothers films and episodes of Candid Camera, helped him feel better. He said that ten minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep.

Laughter Yoga

John Cleese meets Dr Madan Kataria founder of Laughter Yoga International, and visits a Laughter Yoga session in an Indian jail.

Leave a Reply