It is said that on average, people laugh for 6 minutes a day. Does that seem a lot or a little to you? How many times a day do you actually think you laugh?
Smiling and laughter are simple expressions, but experiencing them can turn any normal situation into something special. Whether it’s the surprise of an unexpected smile from a child at the supermarket, or your boss sharing a joke and laughing with you, there is something exceptional about this ordinary expression. We love to laugh together for a number of reasons. Smiling and laughing are not only fun, they’re good for our health; both on a physical, social and emotional level. Laughter boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and stimulates the release of endorphins. Endorphins are often referred to as ‘happiness hormones’. They are released during touch and physical activity and are responsible for feelings of elation and pain relief. While smiling and laughing are clearly beneficial to our physical health, they seem to have an even more prevailing effect on our mental health. Studies show that laughter increases self-efficacy, positive thinking, optimism and perceptions of control. It also decreases negative thinking and symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Research shows that human laughter has evolved from play vocalisation, a behaviour seen in many other mammals. In humans, laughter has developed into an important emotional expression, used throughout many channels of communication. When we cannot see each other’s expression, we also try to convey laughter in text based media, like emojis and LOLs. The science of laughter also tells us that laughter has less to do with jokes and more to do with social behavior. We use smiles and laughter to show people that we like them and that we understand them.
The simple, genuine behaviors of smiling and laughing seem to have an excellent impact on social interactions, enabling unique bonds with friends and family and setting a basis for joyful communication. This is probably why many people appreciate being around people who have a good sense of humour.
Having a good laugh with others improves the atmosphere by making it more relaxed and less tense, leading to less conflict and more cooperation. Having something to laugh about with a partner, colleague, friend or family member gives you some common ground for good feelings.
So to conclude, I encourage you to spend more time with people who make you laugh. It will help you live a better life!
Claire Borg is a gestalt psychotherapist at Willingness. She works with adolescents and adults. She has a special interest in mental health. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.