Have you ever thought about what causes you to laugh? It's not something we think about, we just do it. Humor is human. But also highly subjective; what makes one person laugh might bore someone else. Often it's the unexpected that causes us to have side splitting bursts of laughter. Interestingly enough, the number one trigger for laughter is not jokes, but rather the comments or interactions with another person. Which makes sense. On average, we laugh 30 times more when we're with other people, as opposed to when we're alone. Robert Provine, a neuroscience professor at the University of Maryland conducted experiments studying laughter (talk about when funny gets serious). His findings proved that when participants heard recordings of laughter they immediately began to giggle. Laughter is contagious. When someone starts laughing, it's hard to not laugh with them. Perhaps this is why TV sitcoms use laugh tracks.
Your Brain on Laughter
Also interesting is the effect that laughter has on the brain. Turns out laughing activates the same pleasure sensors in the brain as eating chocolate. And this causes the release of endorphins (our bodies natural feel good chemicals) such as dopamine;a neurotransmitter that causes us to feel satisfied, happy, and motivated.
Laughing Is Good For Your Health
Have you ever heard the saying laughter is the best medicine? Well it's actually true. Laughter helps in boosting immune function, pain management, cardiovascular health, and improved memory. This is because when we laugh we take in more oxygen, which activates our heart, lungs,and muscles. It also helps in lowering cortisol levels (cortisol is the stress hormone that allows for your body's fight or flight response). When high levels of cortisol are consistently present, this can lead to chronic stress which wreaks havoc on your body. Whereas dopamine release boosts immune function, cortisol release lowers it. When we laugh, it relaxes the whole body, relieving physical tension and stress. A good laugh can leave the body relaxed for up to 45 minutes.
Have you heard of Laughter Therapy? It's most commonly used for hospital patients, as a non-invasive way to reduce pain and stress levels by inducing humor. A study from the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, examined the effect that laughter had on serotonin levels in middle aged women. Their results showed that the laughter therapy significantly raised the serotonin (neurotransmitter that helps with feelings of calm and well-being) levels of the participants; to the extend that it was compared to taking an antidepressant. Another study showed that laughter can actually raise someone's ability to endure pain by up to 15%.
Laugh Often, Live Longer
Norwegian researchers conducted a 15 year study examining the relationship between having a sense of humor and mortality rates. The findings concluded that women with a sense of humor had a 48% lower risk of death, compared to men with a sense of humor who had a 74% lower risk of death. A study conducted by Dr. Beerman, Psychology Professor at the University of Innsbruck, revealed laughing at yourself is actually good for your health. When you're able to make light of your life, you worry less and feel better. Researchers at Loma Linda University looked at the relationship between laughter and short term memory. What they learned was that participants who watched a funny video had a 40% better memory recall, compared to the control group which was given no humorous content prior.
What If You're Not Funny?
Science aside, what if you're not naturally funny? First of all, you're probably being too hard on yourself. Second, humor is a skill that can be learned. Yes there is a genetic component to having a sense of humor. However, it's not a situation where either you have it or you don't. Being funny takes practice. But where do you start? Well you can definitely look for resources, but there's something even easier. Don't take yourself so seriously! Improv teachers suggest it's better to be yourself than try and force being funny. Humor is about being open minded and aware of your surroundings. Each person will have their own sense of humor. So find your natural style of funny. Perhaps you like being witty, or telling jokes. Or maybe shake things up with an improv or acting class.
Why did the man go to the yogurt museum?
-To get a little cultured
What do astronauts do before throwing a party?
A bear walks into a bar and says, "give me a whiskey and... cola" "why the big pause?" Asks the bartender. The bear shrugged. "I'm not sure; I was born with them."
As a final thought, here are 3 simple ways to inject some humor into your day to day life.
3 Ways to Add Humor In Your Life
Listen to comedy podcast in your free time
Write down 3 funny things you experienced during your day
Take routine short breaks to read or view funny content