The Science of Laughter

By Ramesh Pandey, Universal Yoga Center

Laughter is a part of our basic human nature. By embracing laughter, you give yourself permission to relax and look at life with a more positive outlook and more lightness.

Laughter has many benefits: It connects people, makes you feel good, improves your health and wellbeing, makes you more productive, it works quickly, and its fun. “But wait a minute,” you say, “I don’t have anything to laugh about. My days are packed, I am stressed out, so many things on my plate. I don’t know how and why I should laugh in such a situation.” You don’t need to have a reason to laugh.

Your brain cannot differentiate between real or fake laughter. A form of therapy called simply “Laughter Therapy,” involves laughing sessions of 15 minutes or longer, often in a group setting. It’s physiological effects on the body, as well as its effects on the mind, can promote health.

Laugh! Be Well and Happy

What is laughter, after all? It is a reflex that sets your diaphragm going. It makes your respiratory muscles rapidly expand and contract, enhancing your breathing apparatus and revving up your circulation. The expansion and contraction increases the chest cavity and the lungs inhale more oxygen while simultaneously expelling more carbon dioxide.

As soon as you laugh, a chain reaction is triggered in your body. It produces adrenalin, the “arousal hormone” that awakens your senses. Simultaneously, you heartbeats quicken and your pupils dilate. Due to this positive stress on your heart, the heart pumps a greater dose of blood through your arteries and draws in more of it through your veins. That is why your face gets flushed.

Moreover, the adrenalin thus activated, causes your pituitary glands to release ACTH (adrenocortitropic hormone), which, in turn, stimulates the adrenal cortex to secrete cortisol. This has anti-inflammatory properties and is especially useful for people suffering from arthritis. More and more medical experts are beginning to believe that laughter also releases endorphine—the body’s natural painkiller.

Epoch Times Photo

If laughter is the voice of good humor, a smile is the expression of happiness—the very foundation of a healthy life. Happy individuals live a balanced life, so they have many sources of happiness. When happiness depends on one thing, you are on shaky ground.

Indeed, happiness is at its most brittle when its cause is a one-pointed material possession. Those who felt the thrill vanish after acquiring a new microwave oven would know what the phrase “there is more fun in the anticipation than in the acquisition” means. Broad-base your foundations and you can live happily ever after in the house called happiness. And a smile really goes a long mile towards that destination.

Interestingly, laughter is being seen as a stress-releaser everywhere. The mere movement of these muscles of the mouth set in a smile relieves your tension. And when you’re doing it intentionally as part of Laughter Therapy, it isn’t long before the real thing occupies its place.

Laughter is Infectious

Initially, you may feel a little self-conscious. But, this is not as silly as it sounds. The muscles of your mouth quiver in a self-deprecatory smirk, your nerves twitch, your lips droop like an inverted crescent moon.

Then, you catch your neighbor’s eye. And suddenly it strikes you. The giggle becomes a full-throated rumble. “Ho-ho, ha-ha!” you chorus. Others will join in. For laughter is infectious. At the end of it, you can ask, “There, it wasn’t so difficult, was it?” And chuckle some more?

To conclude, laughter can prevent disease—depressed people are more prone to sickness than those with a sunny disposition. So, work on your funny bone. For, often, that is all you need—a good hearty laugh to brighten up your day!


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Sense of Well-Being

The one benefit everybody gets is a sense of well-being. After 15 minutes of laughter in the morning, you will feel fresh throughout the day.

There is no medicine like laughter therapy, which gives you instant results. You start finding the freshness straightaway. Many people have found that they don’t get irritated over trivial things after starting this therapy. Their approach towards life changes positively.

Depression, anxiety, and psychosomatic disorders, the stress and strain of modern life are taking a heavy toll on the human mind. Mind-related diseases like anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness are on the rise. Laughter has benefited many people who were on heavy tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Now they are getting better sleep and their depression has reduced.

Meditation and Relaxation

Laughter therapy is one of the finest anti-stress measures. It is ideally suited for today’s stress-ridden lifestyle. It can be compared to some forms of meditation or relaxation. To achieve the desired end through meditation, one has to put in a concerted effort to completely detach oneself on mental and emotional levels from one’s own feelings and thought processes, as well as from the physical world, to prevent distractions. On the other hand, while laughing, we do not have any conscious thought process and all our senses naturally and effortlessly combine in a moment of harmony to give joy, peace, and relaxation.

Laughter is a Way to Connect With Others

Though initially one’s laughter may be forced, it usually isn’t long before participants are laughing freely and without restraint. As this happens, a sense of connectedness occurs—connecting one with the group, and even connecting one with his true nature or higher self.

The laughter that ripples outward from one’s heart into the world at large can have what is known as a “butterfly effect.” This happens when the sound and vibration of one person’s joy touches a stranger, and enables him to respond in kind (neural resonance). Each expression of glee grows exponentially, eventually affecting the mood of the entire world. Before long people everywhere will approach life with a joyful outlook and spontaneously look for and find the brighter side of any situation.

So, go ahead and giggle…
Pain is afraid of laughter.
Sorrow is scared of laughter.
Depression’s most notorious enemy is laughter.

Mark Twain
Mark Twain, c. 1880 (Wikimedia Commons)

Yogi Ramesh Pandey,”The Laughing Yogi,” is a Himalayan yoga master with 50 years of experience. He founded the Universal/Laughing Yoga 25 years ago. He received a PhD. in yoga science and works as a yoga therapist. He lives in Palm Springs and has 50 laughing clubs around the world. He offers workshops at corporate offices and in other settings.