Jessica Giannone — Opinions Editor
Like everything else in the world, the pleasant things we experience, too, have evolved to suit our needs. Survival of the fittest kicked in as far as giggles go. What many don’t realize, however, is these giggles serve a beneficial purpose—biologically and emotionally.
With that said, laughter is not just a means of expressing humor: it is recognized as one of the healthiest practices a person can partake in. Fostering physical and mental advantages such as stress reduction, improved immunity, attention, creativity, alertness, muscle activity, endorphins, pain tolerance, increased respiration and oxygen to the brain, laughter can be used as a way to improve body, mind and life in general, simply because multiple brain regions are working together at once.
So why has this trait evolved as far as literal survival goes? Psychology says laughter was necessary as a form of communication, and Freud would say it is a release of sexual or aggressive tension. Whatever the theory, we know we have an easy fallback to make our day when things aren’t quite going our way—and the perks are priceless.
So how does one encourage laughter for him or herself on a daily basis? Well, here are five tips to achieve a chuckle:
1) Start with a smile, then laugh away. Studies show smiling also releases endorphins, so “fake it till you make it!”
2) Watch funny movies and videos/read funny books, articles, etc. Any amusing activity than contains humor will be sure to spark a giggle.
3) Have a laughing buddy. If there is one person or a group of friends that can trigger the laughter, go to them.
4) See the big picture. If something is frustrating, it can help for one to imagine him or herself viewing the scenario as if it were a comedic sitcom to lighten up the agitation.
5) Get tickled. For most, it works every time!
A special technique to elicit laughter is laughter yoga. This practice integrates unconditional laughter with yogic breathing, without relying on humor, to trigger contagious and therapeutic laughter. Steps and activities to accomplish this laughter, which the body cannot differentiate from “effortless” laughter, include the following:
1) Start off by clapping hands together while saying “ho, ho, ha, ha,” which is believed to stimulate pressure points, activate the diaphragm and prepare the body to breath and become energized.
2) Walk around the room and greet people with laughter (instead of saying hello, just let out a chuckle).
3) One can then pretend he or she is on an imaginary cell phone and laugh into it, while possibly passing it to others and making funny gestures.
4) Participants then pretend they are driving a car to lower inhibitions.
5) Lastly, partake in argument laughter (create a pretend argument with a partner and exchange laughs as “defenses” rather than words).
By the end of the session, one should be relaxed, alert and feeling positive. A video demonstrating this practice can be found at the following webpage: http://www.laughteryogaamerica.com/learn/laughter-yoga-258.php
For further reading on more benefits and the specific brain functioning behind laughter, see: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8- health-benefits-of-laughter.html
“Tips for more laughter in your life:” http://www.laughtertherapy. com/laughtertips.htm#Tips for More laughter in Your Life
Research on hormones involved in laughter: http://stress.about. com/b/2008/04/14/more-research-on-laughter.htm
Regardless of how you mange to get those giggles going, I suggest you take at least five minutes a day to let yourself lose. May you be the last man laughing
Evolution of laughter
Jessica Giannone — Opinions Editor