Laughter is a bold declaration of happiness.
We’re all familiar with its contagious effect, and attempts to stifle it often result in uncontrollable giggles. Professional comedians claim that there is humor to be found in virtually any situation, given enough time. We all know that laughing feels good, but what impact does it have on our daily wellbeing? Let’s turn to the research to find out.
Recent studies suggest that laughter enhances the quality of romantic relationships. One experiment found that couples instructed to reminisce about occasions where they laughed together reported being more satisfied with their relationships, compared to couples that remembered times when they laughed apart from one another or times when they shared positive (but not funny) experiences1.
Interestingly, the occasions on which couples laughed together were not always positive. This suggests that the ability to laugh about neutral or even negative experiences together enhances relationship satisfaction, which is highly related to feeling happy.
How can you make this work for your relationship? Next time you and your significant other are caught in traffic or dine at a mediocre restaurant, help each other find the humor in the situation.
Each time you do this, you create one more memory for the both of you to fondly remember.
Research also indicates that laughter is powerful enough to enhance our physical health. A recent experiment found that mothers who watched and laughed at a Charlie Chaplin movie, “Modern Times,” had higher levels of melatonin in their breast milk, which helped reduce allergic responses and promoted better sleep in their infant children. Another group of mothers that watched a video about weather information did not experience this change2.
Another experiment revealed that women who watched a humorous movie reported lower stress levels and experienced greater immune system functionality, relative to a control group that watched a tourism video3. Finally, laughing has been associated with decreased levels of prorenin in the blood, which is involved in the onset of diabetic complications4.
Laughter may not be the best medicine, but it does seem to have a legitimate medicinal value.
1Bazzini, D. G., Stack, E. R., Martincin, P. D., & Davis, C. P. (2007). The effect of reminiscing about laughter on relationship satisfaction. Motivation and Emotion, 31, 25-34. 2Kimata, H. (2007). Laughter elevates the levels of breast-milk melatonin. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 62, 699-702. 3Bennett, M. P., Zeller, J. M., Rosenberg, L., & McCann, J. (2003). The effect of mirthful laughter on stress and natural killer cell activity. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 9, 38-45. 4Hayashi ,T. & Murakami, K. (2009). The effects of laughter on post-prandial glucose levels and gene expression in type 2 diabetic patients. Life Sciences, 85, 185-187.
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