Why Laughter Is the Best Medicine
Laughing is an instinctive act, natural and even beneficial for health. Several studies have confirmed that laughter is good in various aspects: from improving blood circulation to therapy for diabetes or cholesterol. Such is its importance that dozens of investigations have analyzed its importance not only at a medical level but also in other scientific aspects. Why do we show our teeth when we do it? Is the way of laughing inherited or is it conditioned by cultural factors? Why do humans smile to express satisfaction?
In 2011, a curious study was conducted on the influence of laughter on the circulatory system. After studying 300 people the professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland, Michael Miller found that with stressful films the blood vessels contract by reducing the flow. On the contrary, visualizing comedies increased the diameter of the vessels and brought more blood and oxygen to the organs and tissues. This is just an experimental example of how good humor and smiling affect the human body. Other research has shown that laughter therapy treatments, even less than an hour a day, were positive for people with high cholesterol or who suffered from diabetes. And is that as stated by the psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Robert McGrath, “After laughing, there is a brief period during which blood pressure lowers and the heart slows down,” which affects the entire body in general.
Curious fact. In 1962, in the Bukoba district of Tanzania, an epidemic of spontaneous laughter broke out among the children, which forced the temporary closure of 14 schools. Family and friends got infected: the closer the relationship was, the more likely they were to “get infected”.
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But the study of laughter overcomes the barriers of medicine and has entered other scientific fields. Recently an English study has investigated the reason why we teach our teeth when we laugh. According to the researchers, the gorillas smile when they play as a sign of friendship, explaining to the rest of their companions, with the simple gesture of showing their teeth, that they have no intention of attacking them. This type of behavior would explain the origin of our current smile and the fact that we show our teeth when we laugh
Spontaneous laughter originates in the oldest part of our brainstem, which means we cannot control it consciously. Our ability to laugh probably precedes talking for hundreds of thousands of years. Also, it’s not something you learn: people who are both deaf and blind also laugh.
Gelotologists (who study laughter) point out that it is not so much an expression, but that the intention of laughter is to provoke positive feelings in others, which promotes the feeling of cohesion in the groups. That may have helped us survive as a species