+64 21 684 395
steph@metamorphosis.co.nz

Contagious Laughter

3 Jun 2008

Contagious Laughter

A Martian’s perspective

If you’d just arrived on earth from Mars and saw a group of people engaged in the strange and unnatural behaviour we call laughter, what would you make of it?

It might seem as if one person started laughing and then another ‘caught’ it. After watching laughter spread from one to another you might well conclude that laughter is contagious.

Contagious Laughter

photo credit:a day with laughing… via photopin (license)

And Laughter is Contagious!

Did you know that on 30 January 1962 there was an outbreak of contagious laughter that began in a girl’s boarding school in Tanzania. Three girls got the giggles and couldn’t stop.

Then the School had to close

By 18 March the outbreak spread to 95 other girls and forced the school to close. Some two and a half years later it died down and in the meantime nearly 1,000 people were ‘infected’.

How does contagion occur?

You only have to think about your own reaction to someone enjoying a really good laugh to understand how contagious laughter really is. Recent research suggests that there may be an auditory laugh detector – a neural circuit in the brain that responds exclusively when we hear laughter. Once triggered the laugh detector activates another circuit in the brain and we start laughing.

Contagion of a different kind

Unlike most forms of contagion laughter helps us stay healthy. Stress tends to increase blood pressure and muscle tension as well as causing other unhealthy physiological changes. Laughter seems to be the ideal antidote to stress, reducing or eliminating these symptoms.

Science proves it

Lee Berk and Stanley Tan of Loma Linda University School of medicine have proven that laughing lowers cortisone levels. Cortisone is the hormone which suppresses our immune system and causes us to be more susceptible to illness. Laughter also doubles the amount of activated T cells. T cells are primed to battle infection and they boost both the immune and cardiovascular systems. This in turn offsets the effects of stress.

But wait, there’s more!

The other interesting aspect of laughter is that when we laugh our body produces endorphins, which act as natural painkillers. You can’t laugh and be angry or fearful at the same time so laughter can unblock negative energy flow and assist recovery from illness.

Laughing increases the bonds between people

There’s an old adage that says, ‘people who laugh together, stay together.’ This is because laughing together increases the bonds between people, creating deeper rapport. You don’t even need to share a language to share a laugh – it’s cross-cultural.

Research confirms this too

More research is proving what most of us already knew (isn’t it always the way?) That people who share laughter have better relationships. At work this can translate to better health, less sick leave and more fulfilling, lasting relationships. It makes work a place of fun and enjoyment. So remember … the most wasted day of all is one in which you have not laughed. You don’t stop laughing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop laughing.

So, how contagious are you?

I hope you’re doing your bit to engage in that strange and unnatural behaviour called laughing. Are you doing your bit to spread laughter around the planet and confuse those Martians even more?

Summary:

– Laughing is contagious.
– Regular laughter helps you stay healthy.
– Laughing helps you recover from illness.
– Sharing laughter improves relationships.
– To stay young – keep laughing.

Maybe you have the idea that you need to laugh ABOUT something or that you can’t laugh at NOTHING. Watch this baby laughing at paper being torn YouTube video.The last time I watched it, it had been viewed over 80 MILLION times! See if you can watch it for the whole 1 min 43 seconds WITHOUT laughing.

Want more laughter?