‘Laughter is an instant vacation,’ so said comedian Milton Berle. Certainly laughing is the best form of therapy and studies have shown that people who laugh have a better tolerance to pain, as endorphins are released when we actively and openly indulge in a full belly laugh.
In general, children are known to laugh on average 300 times per day while adults only manage significantly less than 20, according to some reports. There are many reasons contributing to the decline of laughter as we age, the onset of responsibility and stress are major factors along with reduced social time, while children have fewer worries and are generally socialising for much of their day. All in all, children generally have more fun than adults.
The science behind the study of Laughter and its effects on the mind and body is called ‘Gelotology’ – a field of study pioneered by William F. Fry of Stanford University in the late 1960’s. Therapies which have evolved around the concept of laughter as a useful medicinal tool include Humour and Laughter Therapy, Laughter Meditation and Laughter Yoga. Benefits derived from such practices which have been clinically observed are: a marked reduction in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, stress-related diseases and a stronger immune response.
Humour is a distraction to the worrying brain which also aids social bonding and is key to fighting depression. During wartime Britain, comedy was used to defuse tension among army recruits and the general population and gave people respite from their shared tragedies, usually by poking fun at the enemy.
Laughter transcends human and non-human primate cultural boundaries and sends social signals of connection which break down tension and encourages cooperation between group members. It is, in effect, a survival mechanism.
The importance of humour and its influence on our health and the health of our children cannot be underestimated. It can be used to broker peace between arguing children and to alleviate the stress of exams, often by simply playing games which have a light-hearted and humorous approach.
When we laugh, all body systems are positively impacted leading to improved oxygen levels, better sleep and increased emotional intelligence. In particular, children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are found to have greater concentration abilities and reduced aggressive tendencies when introduced to some form of laughter therapy.
Considering the origins of laughter can be traced back to between 10 and 16 million years ago, perhaps we have been taking this very natural, social trait for granted and maybe in these post-pandemic days we could consider re-introducing the concept of Medicinal Laughter into our schools and hospitals to boost the health and wellbeing of our children.
‘It is impossible to be angry and laugh at the same time.
Anger and Laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.’
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