The Healing Sound Of Laughter

Of all the sounds we humans are capable of making laughter is perhaps the most delightful. It connects us in a way that transcends language barriers and is truly “infectious”. Laughter flows around a group of people whether they have anything overtly in common or not. We, as humans, often describe the facial expressions of animals using human terms such as smiling and laughing but as far as we know, humans, are amongst the only species on earth that are capable of the act of laughter. It is the outward expression of joy for us, and it is almost impossible to remain gloomy when you are surrounded by people who are laughing and who are including you in their joyful expressions.

Take Time To Laugh; It Is The Music Of The Soul

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The Evolution of Laughter

Why do we laugh? Scientists and anthropologists believe that laughter may have evolved in humans as a way of bonding with others in social groups. In 2009 psychologist Marina Davila-Ross, recorded facial expressions and vocalizations (Tickle induced vocalizations) in her research that correlated similarity among certain primates while they interacted in play. The more we share laughter, the stronger the bond. And in fact it has been shown that when conversations include laughter they tend to last longer. As laughter actually inhibits the release of stress hormones the “fight or flight” response is reduced, meaning that individuals may be relying upon the collective for security in times of threat or danger. In other words, laughter may have evolved as an expression of trust in others.

The Biology of Laughter

We always feel better after a good laugh, but what is actually happening in our physiological systems to bring about this result? The physiological study of laughter is called gelotology. Studies show that certain areas of the brain are responsible for responses on an emotional level and it seems that laughter activates various different regions of the brain. The limbic system is predominantly involved in the expression of human emotions, laughter being one of them. The limbic system is a network of structures located beneath the cerebral cortex and is heavily involved in our processing of smell. While at first glance this seems to be irrelevant when we are discussing a sound, laughter, the connections we make in our emotional responses are very similar with both smell and sound. We do not need to access a memory in factual or visual detail for it to be present and powerful. A smell or a sound will trigger a fully formed memory within a second, or less.

“…sharing the sounds of laughter also brings us relief, validation and a sense of security and belonging.”

When we laugh, the physical movements we make to produce the sound of laughter trigger the release of feel good hormones into our bloodstreams. Endorphins and other neuropeptides encourage the release of tension in all the muscles of the body, including the brain. The resulting feelings of relaxation allow us to become more objective about the things that may be causing us anxiety and our mood is lifted. Laughter is a communal activity (mostly) and the act of sharing the sounds of laughter also brings us relief, validation and a sense of security and belonging.

Laughter relaxes your body for up to 45 minutes, and produces the same natural high that exercise elicits. The sound of laughter can act as an instant trigger for some people, especially if the laughter comes from a loved one, such as a child. It can instantly lift your mood and spirits in a way that leaves you open to experiencing even more of life’s joy.