12 June 2014

Did laughter evolve to make us healthy?

Researchers are looking into what laughter can do for our health. More than a form of communication, laughter helps people thrive. Some folks take that to heart and gather for "laughter yoga."
TRANSCRIPT:
 Dr. Alex Eingorn, Laughter Yoga Leader and Chiropractor
We need to get back to the natural, built in mechanisms that we have for self preservation and health.
Laughter is one of them.
Debra Corwin, Laughter Yoga Leader
Laughter Yoga is a way for people to use laughter without telling jokes and being able to get the
laughter to help them feel better.
 The interesting thing is that it helps ease pain, it can ease depression, it's a way to move and get into your inner child and it's a lot of fun. And adults don't remember necessarily how to have fun.
Dr. Michael Miller, Director, Center for Preventative Cardiology - University of Maryland Medical Center
The bottom line of our research is that laughter not only makes us feel good but it has a direct effect on our blood vessels. And our blood vessels control the likelihood of us developing a heart attack or a stroke. So if we keep the blood vessels healthy, then we're going to be healthy.
You can burn up to 40 calories for 5-10 minutes of laughter. But equally important is the blood vessel opening we see is the same as going jogging or even taking one of our cholesterol medications. You get the same effect in terms of opening up your blood vessels as you do with a good, deep, belly laugh.
Laughing on a regular basis is not only good for our soul, but also great for our heart.
Dr. Alex Eingorn
Laughter is a way of communication and that's why it's contagious. When I'm laughing you're looking
and me and you're like 'wow, this is a positive energy' and you're more likely to join me in the laughter.
Dr. Robert Provine, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
But laughter's not present at birth. It appears about 3-4 months of age and it's one of the most important
early means of communication between babies and mothers.
A mother will tickle the baby and the baby will smile and laugh. And the mother will do more of that. If the baby does like it, the baby will fuss or cry and the mother stops. It's a kind of instinctive language that exists before we learn to talk.
Laughter, like speech, evolved to change the behavior of other individuals. Does it have to have other purposes? It probably does, but we're just now starting to tease out what those differences are.
Did the benefits of laughter come from the act of laughing or is it the social context, spending time with friends, family, and lovers. All of these are very difficult scientific issues that haven't been teased out.
But laughter clearly feels good when we do it. Isn't that enough?

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