It is estimated the average adult laughs around 20 times a day; some fifteen times less than a small child. But what is laughter? Why do we laugh and what affect does it have on ourselves and other people? There have been countless studies into laughter (the study of laughter is actually called gelotology) and its effect on people’s well- being and health.

In scientific terms, laughter is caused by a constriction of the larynx. The process of laughing has even been shown to increase blood flow around the body, as well as reducing the level of hormones in the body that can cause stress and anxiety. There are even claims that laughter can improve a person’s immune system!

One thing that is certain is how contagious laughter can be; just the thought of someone laughing can be enough to set a person off. In part at least, this is the reason for so called ‘canned’ laughter, played on TV sitcoms and game shows.

There are several studies showing that laughter is not as simple as a response to humour, but an outward signal to other people. Think about it; how often does a person laugh when alone? Perhaps when watching TV or listening to the radio, but not all too often.

A magnificent example of how contagious laughing can be was in a small Tanzanian town in the early 1960s. The story goes that three girls in a boarding school began laughing uncontrollably and, within days, the school was forced to close as pupils were simply unable to concentrate for laughing. The laughter spread and other schools were closed as the laughter continued. Whilst the image of an entire village of Tanzanians in fits of laughter is probably not entirely accurate, it is estimated at some point over a few weeks some 10,000 people succumb to fits of laughter! At the time, the country was known as Tanganyika and so the episode became known as the ‘Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic’.

Another benefit of laughter is its ability to bring groups of people together. In addition, there is increasing evidence that it can even increase productivity in the workplace. As a result, laughter therapy workshops have begun to spring up around the world offering team building exercises and laughter classes.

Laughter therapy workshops specifically aim to break down people’s inhibitions, particularly between groups of professionals, in order to encourage positive and creative thinking. The workshops raise team morale, increase communication between a group and as a result, boost a team’s productivity. In addition, laughing symbolises a person’s feeling of belonging to a group. Combined, these factors make such workshops a valuable use of time and a great way to improve a team’s soft skills.

Whatever the case, laughter is an integral part of everyday human life and social interaction. Without it, we would live in a very boring world indeed!

Author's Bio: 

Chris Jenkinson is a UK marketing consultant writing and working for the Team Building Through Laughter Company who provide laughter therapy workshops to businesses looking to improve staff morale.