Why does laughter have an enduring reputation as a healer? Does it lead to a chemical reaction that’s good for us? Is it a psychological tool? Is something else going on? Let’s look at the evidence to understand the result of, and purpose for, laughter.
When a person allows themselves to laugh at their own mistakes, they are at peace with themselves. They’ve accepted the fact that perfection is a goal, not a common reality. Knowing that you’re perfectly imperfect, and that that’s okay, is calming. It even prevents the buildup of stress. The physiological chain reaction of laughter has more benefits in store, but pause, first, to consider the scientific name for the study of the physiological effects of laughter on human bodies. Ready? It’s “Gelotology.” Did the corners of your mouth perk up when you read that? Mine did. It sounds like a dessert, not boring science!
Gelotology is the formal study of laughter and its psychological plus physiological effects on the body. Researchers have learned that smiling literally rewires the brain. That can improve your memory, improve your mood plus help you to increase your focus on whatever you’re doing as you smile. If you feel more motivated about anything as you smile, you’re sensing the motivational boost that smiles create, too. Neuropeptides that help the neurons in your brain to communicate with each other are created with each grin. That sets off neurotransmitters called dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. As indicated in past articles at e-counseling, they lower your heart rate and blood pressure. The result is that you feel relaxed, even happier than you before you began laughing or smiling. You might not notice pain so much, either. Endorphins reduce your sensitivity to pain. There’s more good news: Researchers suspect that catecholamine fills your central nervous system (CNS) as you laugh. That has a positive effect on specific mental functions such as alertness, interpersonal responsiveness and memory.
Let’s move on to the rest of the body. The immune system is strengthened by laughter because it promotes the increase of immunoglobin A (IgA). That raises the levels of other chemicals which also protect your health. Levels of stress-related hormones fall at this point, and now you know why laughter leaves a person feeling much better than before. It’s also the reason that cheerful people tend to be healthier than their grouchy counterparts. It’s nice on the wallet, too. Smiling and laughing don’t cost money, unless you paid to watch a funny movie or other presentation.
Observe the speaker’s face, voice and mannerisms in this How I Fail at Being Disabled video. Attitude Matters! The speaker’s sense of humor let’s her have fun because of her disability, not despite it. Developing that positive point of view probably took practice. If you remember the old saying “You need an attitude adjustment,” this is a fine demonstration of one.
When people around you sense that you’re prone to being lighthearted about otherwise stressful things, they realize that laughter is a self-effacing behavior, one of self-acceptance as opposed to self-criticism. Laughing in public allows strangers and acquaintances to listen in to the laugher’s soul. That intentional sharing of vulnerability promotes trust and a sense of honesty, even humility. Far more effective than a “Trust me,” statement, laughter lightens moods and other people’s sense of reluctance to interact with someone. It shows that a person is playful, upbeat and appealing. It puts everyone in the crowd on equal footing. That’s quite reassuring. Laughing together, especially over shared or individual limitations, is liberating.
Want to be able to laugh at your mistakes? Adjust your attitude so that you become predisposed to laughter, too. It’s a skill that can be learned, with practice.