“Laughter is an ancient evolutionary system that mammals have evolved to make and maintain social bonds and to regulate emotions.” Sophie Scott
I dare you not to laugh when you watch this fascinating video. British neuroscientist Sophie Scott actually studies laughter for a living – how wonderful is that? She’s also extremely funny herself, which must help if you are studying laughter.
Scott shares some fascinating insights about the science of laughter in this recently recorded video for TEDX. She also answers questions such as whether people who laugh are happier, why we laugh and why laughter is important?
A Few Highlights
- Laughter isn’t just found in humans – rats laugh too
- Laughter is socially modulated, i.e., it requires social interaction
- There are two, physiologically different kinds of laughterLaughter is positively correlated with general satisfaction with life and with relationships (especially romantic ones)
Surprising Scientific Facts About Laughter
- Laughing increases our pulse rate, our blood pressure and our breathing rate, which delivers more oxygen to our tissue.
- Some researchers have likened the effect of laughter on the body as similar to the effect of exercise: laughter boosts your heart rate. Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, conducted a study to evaluate the impact of laughing on calories and found that a good 15 minutes of laughter burned fifty calories.
- Researchers at Maryland University showed groups of people two types of programmes: a funny one or a drama. They observed that the blood vessels of those who watched the comedy functioned normally, whereas the blood vessels of those in the drama group were more constricted, restricting blood flow.
- Being stressed is linked to a decrease in immune system response, according to scientists. There is evidence that laughing may increase the level of antibodies in the body as well as the number of immune cells, too.
- Laughter could help improve your sleep. The interest in the therapeutic benefits of laughter started with the memoir of the American political journalist and author Norman Cousins, entitled Anatomy of an Illness. Cousins, who suffered from ankylosing spondylitis, discovered that a diet of watching funny programmes helped him feel better. He also said that laughing allowed him to sleep pain-free for up to two hours. Laughter’s ability to dull pain has been confirmed in numerous studies.
- Laughter appears to have a positive effect on blood sugar level. In one study, a group of people with diabetes were invited to attend a dull meeting after eating a meal. Their blood sugar levels were then measured. The following day, the group ate an identical meal but this time, rather than attend a boring lecture, they watched a funny programme. After watching this comedy, the group’s blood sugar levels were measured and found to be lower than after the boring lecture.
- We are thirteen times more likely to laugh when we are with someone else than alone.
Is laughter the best medicine? Are you convinced about the therapeutic value of laughter, or do you have a different opinion? Share your comments below.