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  • Writer's pictureSheRonda Berry

The Power of Laughter

You may have heard the popular saying, “laughter is the best medicine” but do you know why it is or you just believe it anyway? If you do not know what exactly makes laughter a medicine, it is understandable. Proper knowledge on the science of laughter would provide clarification on the saying which is what this article is about. Along with that, we would discover how this simple yet underrated activity is beneficial to our physical and mental health.

Only humans can laugh. Animals and plants can move and respiratory and excrete just like humans but the one thing they cannot do is laugh.

What is Laughter?

Wikipedia says that laughter is “a physical reaction in humans consisting typically of rhythmical, often audible contractions of the diaphragm and other parts of the respiratory system.” It also adds that laughter is a “response to certain external or internal stimuli.”

From this definition, we can see that:

Only humans can laugh. Animals and plants can move and respiratory and excrete just like humans but the one thing they cannot do is laugh.

Laughter is regulated by the respiratory system. During the activity, the diaphragm spasms and the larynx is partially closed which is what makes laughter rhythmic.

Laughter is triggered. We laugh in response to situations or conversations around us. These conversations could be in our minds which could be the “internal stimuli”.

Call laughter an event and you wouldn’t be wrong. While laughing, every part of the body goes through the phase as muscles contract and dilate.

As a matter of fact, laughter is contagious. Ever noticed that you just get triggered when you see a group of people laughing and even without knowing what’s happening, you just cackle or smile? That’s the power of laughter.

Some scientists even presume that laughter was the origin of language. They suggest that our ancestors laughed with each other as a form of communication before they came up with words.

So How Does Laughter Happen?

Having stated that laughter is triggered, let us see how the “trigger” is actually pulled. It is common knowledge that the brain is divided into the left brain and right brain and each of these sides carries out specific functions even in laughter. The left brain reads the message received and interprets it then the right brain goes ahead to detect if there is any humor in the interpretation passed. Thereafter, the frontal lobe stimulates the right emotional response to the humor detected and the motor areas which generate the actual reaction to humor, spring into action.

As long as the process seems, it takes place in milliseconds that we hardly recognize any of it. With this explained, we can see that the brain and respiratory system are affected when we laugh. But these are not all the areas a hearty laughter touches.

What is the Connection between Laughter and Physical Health?

When we laugh, our blood vessels contract and recent researches illustrate the effect of these series of contractions. Laughter is known to cause the systolic blood pressure to drop by an average of 10 points within a time frame of 20 minutes. This consequently lowers the risks of having a heart attack or other heart diseases.


Additionally, experts have confirmed that laughter stimulates the production of protective cells which are responsible for defending the internal organs from antibodies. With the increased production of these cells daily, people who laugh more often are less likely to fall ill.

Not to discredit physical workouts but having a session of laughter for 15 minutes is said to burn close to 40 calories. The Indians have an understanding of this and that’s why there is a type of exercise called laughter yoga which is now practiced in over 50 countries. Participants laugh at intervals while stretching and bending.

Laughter diminishes the level of several hormones including cortisol which is also referred to as the stress hormone. This stress hormone is also responsible for aging so in essence, laughter slows down the aging process.

Also, people who laugh more than average are more likely to live longer than those who barely laugh. This was reported by a survey carried out in Norway especially among cancer patients.

What about Mental Health?

It is no news that laughter stems from a moment of ecstasy but along with the feeling, the body produces hormones called endorphins. These hormones are produced in moments of excitement and they make the mind ignore feelings of pain. A scientific report states that when laughter is elicited, pain thresholds are significantly increased.” Correlating the effects of endorphins to this research, we can say that laughter definitely improves mental health.

When our mental health is impeded, we are likely to experience feelings of pain and anxiety or depression. A moment of laughter is known to douse the pain and provide a feeling of relief afterward. In fact, the effect of laughter can last 45 minutes after the experience so you have almost an hour of little to no pain.

Thirdly, when we laugh, we feel more relaxed and in this state of relaxation, we tend to process thoughts and situations better. What you may see as a threat while tense may seem like a walk in the park after having a peal of good laughter.

No wonder Henry Ward Beecher says that “mirth is God’s medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it.” Your health is not only dependent on medications and good living conditions which are essential but a very simple exercise as laughter is capable of making you break Guinness book of record by being the next person to live the longest. Maybe not longest but at least, you’ll live really long. Who doesn’t want that?

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