The Human Laugher

The Human Laugher

Humans are bizarre animals. Laughter is one of many interesting and strange qualities of the human condition. Why does it create a feeling of satisfaction and well-being?

Gelotology is the field that tackles the study of laughter. Also, researchers have established links between our emotions and our physical health: psychophysiology. Stress emotions can stimulate stress hormones, which effect human physiology in unhealthy ways; positive emotions such as joy and the feelings that promote positive laughter, stimulate healthy physiological responses. This seems like a simple formula. There are obviously many complexities and circumstances related to stimulating the emotions that replace or fend off harsh emotions. Generally, I am talking about the formula for stimulating healthy physiology that promotes a sense of well-being where it is at all possible for individuals to make that happen.

My Dad used to talk about Norman Cousins (1915-1990), a past professor and researcher at UCLA, who made a connection between humour and its analgesic effects using "laugh therapy." In his work, Cousins established that humour and laughter released pain-inhibiting endorphins in the body. In more recent 2017 research, “Humor, laughter, learning, and health! A brief review,” the authors point out that Cousins: “expressed his belief that, since negative emotions lead to negative physiology, then positive emotion, such as humor, can lead to positive physiology.” For example, “chronic stress persistently elevates levels of stress hormones, including epinephrine and cortisol…these physiological responses to stress increase the risk for cardiovascular and other diseases (52).” However, the other side of the coin points to the “positive emotions of humor and laughter [to] decrease the risk for stress-related diseases (33).”

In other words, it doesn’t hurt to seek out positive humour and laughter. A dose of endorphins works for me. Endorphins are associated with inhibiting pain and giving a euphoric feeling. Many “feel-good” activities, such as eating delightful foods, exercising, listening to music, or laughing are linked with endorphin euphoria.

We are intricately connected to our surroundings in many ways. Intentional exposure to humour, joy, and laughter has a profound effect on physiological workings of our bodies. Like the biological ecosystems of planet Earth, we are interconnected with each other and our emotional worlds.

Photos: Lauren Hall, "Sculpture, A-maze-ing Laughter, created by Yue Minjun."
The sculpture is located in English Bay, Vancouver, BC, Canada.


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