Laughter is both a tranquilliser and equaliser.
You are not dressed completely
until you wear a smile on you
– Mahatma Gandhi
Laughter is the emotional response of the human body to a humorous situation in life. Based on its extent and pitch it can be classified as a simple smile to a loud and compulsive laughter. It optimizes mind–body relationship and promotes a sense of well–being. It is a natural antidote to negative stressful situations.
Psychoimmunological (PNI) studies claim that our immune system is linked to the brain, and is definitely affected by emotions. The infection–fighting T–cells become more active. Studies have shown that laughter lowers adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol levels in the body, i.e., it has an anti–stress action in the body. Thus, laughter works like a tonic, antagonizes stress, and enhances tranquility. This has led to the formation of laughter clubs, which usually meet in the mornings, and guarantee a good day to follow (Lifestyle and Health by Dr. H.K. Vhopra, Sterling Paperbacks, New Delhi, 2006).
The whole body – including the diaphragm, abdominal, intercostal, and facial muscles – become active leading to tranquility. Even smiling elevates one's mood. It is said that it takes forty muscles to frown, and only thirteen muscles to laugh.
Laughter induces positive feelings in the body which lead to activation of chemicals like endorphins which attach to opiate receptors in the brain inducing a feeling of well–being and happiness, together with relief from pain, and a healing effect on wounds, if any. The three groups of endogenous opioid peptides, namely endorphins, enkaphalins and dynorphins are distributed in the central nervous system (CNS), and have their characteristic action like opioids.
Laughter is regulated by the limbic system in the brain, precisely by the amygdala and the hyppocampus. This emotional expression is not only confined to human beings. Chimpanzees also show a laughter–like behavior.
I wish to share an anecdote with the reader:
During the Second World War, Winston Churchill was holding a meeting to discuss some problems. No solution was visible and Churchill grew morose and sad. Suddenly Lady Astor spoke loudly, "Mr Churchill the way you behave, if you were my husband, I would poison your coffee". Churchill retorted, "If I were your husband. I would drink it".
Everyone laughed and the tension vanished. Humour and laughter are the most powerful tools to tackle difficult situations. In addition laughter produces positive health benefits,lowers blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, and also makes one feel younger.