Laughter: A Worldwide Phenomenon
There are some common traits that distinguish mankind from all the other species in this world. These traits are common and at one time or the other, each and every individual reveals them. Laughing is one of these common traits that are witnessed in mankind. In definition, one can say laughing is a way of expressing happiness. However, scientists define laughing as process that leads to a physical reaction in mankind’s respiratory system and the diaphragm as a result of humor (Antonio, 1983 Pg 13). This process usually involves some diaphragm contractions that are rhythmical, and are often audible due to the response of some parts of the human respiratory system. Laughing has to be stimulated by either an internal or an external factor (Ziv, 2009 Pg 42).
As a result, mankind sometimes ends up inducing external stimulants that lead to laughing. These stimulants can be; tickling one another, telling some humorous stories and even reminding each other of joyful moments. Mankind considers laughter as a sign of positive state of emotions such as relief, mirth, joy, relief and even happiness among others. However, there are some other factors that can lead to laughter. These may not be positive state of emotions, although they are also accompanied by humor. They include; laughing out of embarrassment, when one makes a friendly face during an apologetic speech, courtesy laugh or even nervous laughter out of confusion (Murray, 1993 Pg 67). There are many factors that determine when, where, how and whether a particular human being would find humor in a situation or not. These factors include; culture, education, language, gender and age.
Research done by scientists suggests that laughter as a behavior which is common in all human beings is subject to the interpretation of the situation at hand by the human brain (Murray, 1979 Pg 25). The brain usually interprets social interaction and their intentions, providing some sort of emotional context to the conversation. This brain interpretation is not subject to a particular group of humans, age, race, color, religion, creed or any other particular human trait. It is universal hence the way a person in a continent such as Australia would laugh, it is the same way a person in Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America would laugh to a situation (McComas, 2000 Pg 31). As result, when human beings from different corners of this world meet, people use the smiles on their faces and the laughter in that situation to gauge positive interaction as well as acceptance with others. Therefore, it is right to say that mankind uses laughter to identify as being part of a group.
However, there are also other situations that one can laugh and provoke positive feedback from others. Some of these situations make scientists and other researchers in the matter conclude that laughter can be contagious (Reay, 2008 Pg 29). This is because a person can laugh out of a positive situation and others follow suit even without enquiring what the humor is all about. Other times individuals can tell humorous jokes and in a humorous manner with the intent of making other people laugh. These are the people human beings refer to as jokers/entertainers, while others can specialize in this art and become comedians. As a result, there are studies that have been carried out by scientists with the intention of figuring out how a person can have a significantly large gathering of people just after humor. This study of laughter and humor, and the possible physiological and psychological effects on mankind is referred to as gelotology.
Laughter assumes a very simple and natural approach in human life as it is usually response to humor. It also starts significantly early in the life of a human being. In fact researchers argue that some noises made by toddlers who are only 17 days old are usually laughter (Murray, 1993 Pg 56). This research continues to say that young children can laugh for more than 300 times in a day while a fully grown adult usually laughs between 15 to 20 times daily on average (Reay, 2008 Pg 36). On top of that, researchers argue that laughter is more contagious than any sneeze, sniffle or any cough. It also brings people of different origins, races, creeds, religions, ages and color together promoting happiness and intimacy. Many are the times that we have also heard a saying that “laughter is the best medicine”. This is because it triggers and also contributes to healthy changes within the human body (McComas, 2000 Pg 68). Scientists have indeed proven that laughter and humor contributes to building a strong immune system. They also say it helps in boosting one’s body and brain energy, protects from any damaging effects triggered by depression and stress as well as diminishing pain. On top of that, laughter, which is being termed as “free medicine” is free, fun and easy to use.
On the issue of laughter being the “best medicine” scientists have come out to strongly support this notion with a couple of scientifically proven facts. For starters, they have proven that laughter and humor works as a strong antidote against pain, stress and conflict (Ziv, 2009 Pg 86). They say it is only some good laughter that can bring one’s body and mind into balance within a very short period of time. It also inspires hopes, keeps one alert, grounded and focused. On top of that, humor and laughter is believed to relief burdens that sometimes make mankind feel overloaded and out of options when pressed by hard issues in this life. Therefore, scientists urge people to develop a habit of bearing close to humorous people once or twice in every few hours. This is because the ability to laugh helps in surmounting problems, supporting emotional and physical health and also enhancing relationships.
According to a scientific research carried out in the year 2002, scientists argued that after a good laugh muscles in the whole body flexes relieving stress and tension for the following 30 to 45 minutes (Murray, 1979 Pg 53). Good laughter also boosts the immune system. To expound on this, scientists believe that it increases immune hormones in the body while at the same time decreasing stress and depression hormones. Scientists have also proven that good humor and laughter increases resistance to diseases through provide a relaxed environment for development of infection-fighting antibodies. This is also possible through release of endorphins, a process which is triggered by good laughter. Scientists define endorphins as the human body’s “feel good chemicals” (Beilenson et al, 2008 Pg 44). These chemicals play a vital role in promoting the well being of white blood cells which act as “body watchmen” and also contribute in relieving pain.
There is also a notion that humor and human laughter protects and promotes the well being of the human heart. This is because scientists believe that a good laughter improves the functions of all blood vessels in the body as wells as providing efficiency in blood flow. This is return discourages cardiovascular problems as well as protecting one from heart attacks (Antonio, 1983 Pg 53). Therefore, if we were to make a summary of benefits of laughter so far, it would as follows:
Mental Health Benefits;
- Laughter is a key element is improving an individual’s mood. Sometimes we even see parents trying to calm their crying angry or crying children thorough trying to make them laugh.
- It also relieves stress and depression for it makes an individual concentrate on the humor at hand and forgets all the challenges facing him/her.
- Adds zest and joy to life for everyone always wants to be happy in life. There cannot be happiness without laughter and maybe vice versa.
- Enhances resilience
- Eases anxiety and fear.
Laughter’s Physical Benefits include;
- Discourages heart diseases
- reduces stress hormones
- helps in boosting immunity against disease causative agents
- it also assists in body muscles relaxation
- laughter helps in reducing pain
Laughter’s Social Benefits
- Laughter helps creating and strengthening relationships.
- It also makes someone appear more friendly hence attracting others to them
- It is also a vital instrument of diffusing conflict among disagreeing parties. That is why sometimes people smile when apologizing.
- Laughter also encourages teamwork for it is fun
- Laughter also promotes group bonding.
Expounding on mental health and laughter, there are a few links between the two. For starters, when one laughs, even after that humorous moment is gone; it leaves a positive and an optimistic outlook on an individual (Murray, 1979 Pg 61). This is regardless of any challenges that the individual in question may have been going through. One of the facts associated with mental health and laughter is that there is no way one can be angry or anxious while laughing. The other common link between the two is the fact that in reducing stress and increasing one’s body and mind energy, it enables one to stay focused on positive things and accomplishes more. Additionally, laughter creates a calm environment of re-examining challenging situations in life bringing sanity. As a result, it helps one look at things in a less threatening light and into a more realistic manner (Murray, 1993 Pg 87). In fact, researchers in the field of medicine argue that laughter prevents an individual from feeling overwhelmed by challenging situations in the sense that it creates a psychological distance from them.
Laughter as a common and an international phenomenon applies to every individual in the world. As a result, it has so many social benefits regardless of where an individual comes from in this universe. For instance, one of the most effective strategies of keeping relationships exciting and fresh is by sharing laughter with family and friends occasionally (Reay, 2008 Pg 73). This is because, regardless of where an individual is in this world, sharing laughter occasionally helps in adding resilience, joy and vitality in one’s life. Besides, laughter as any other world phenomenon leads to strong and lasting relationships bonds. On top of that, even when there are conflicts in different corners of the world, laughter is one of the most effective tools in that it helps in resolving these matters especially when leaders from fighting sides meet. Humor and sharing laughter is truly an effective as well as a powerful way of healing hurts and disagreements (Antonio, 1983 Pg 09). It brings people together even during difficult times.
As a world phenomenon that is shared among all mankind, more humor incorporation in daily interactions is also a key tool in improving intimacy in relationships. This is also when one is socializing with family members, co-workers and even friends. When one uses humor in these situations, it helps one to release inhibitions. This means that one sets aside any fears of holding on and also holding back in any situation (McComas, 2000 Pg 24). It also helps an individual to express his/her true feelings as deep fearlessly. This is because emotions easily come to the surface thorough humor and laughter. An individual also becomes spontaneous and lively as it helps one to forget their problems. Although not completely, that moment of laughter helps one get out of his/her head and focus on other issues altogether. Additionally, humor in interactions helps one to let go of too much defensiveness. A simple laughter can make an individual forget criticism, doubts about themselves and others (Ziv, 2009 Pg 19). It also assists in forgetting hurtful accusations and judgments.
In conclusion, humor is a universal phenomenon, and mankind understands the language of laughter regardless of race, color, creed, religion, age, origin or any other diversity traits. This “language” is not only beneficial for social interaction purposes, it also has many physical and emotional health benefits as outlined above. Therefore, the ability to have fun, laugh and play well with others promotes healthy living and makes life more enjoyable. It also helps people to be more creative on how to relate and connect with others, as well as solving their problems. This is because humor is not only a common “language” that mankind understands worldwide, it keeps renewing relationships between friends, families and even co-workers.
Antonio, C. A. (1983). The Sociology of Humour and Laughter-An Outstanding Debt.
McComas, H. C. The origin of laughter. Princeton University.
Murray, S. D. (1979). Sociology Through Humor. University of California, San Diego.
Murray, S. D. (1993). What’s so Funny? The Comic Conception of Culture and Society. Chicago. The Chicago University press.
Reay, M. (2008). Spontaneous Laughter and Cultural Contradiction. Swarthmore College.
Ziv, A. (2009). The Social Function of Humor in Interpersonal Relationships. Internet resource.