LOL. I nearly did.

LOL. ROFL. While I was at the Edinburgh Fringe festival this month, I met a old lady with a rare neurological condition called aphonogelia.

LOL. ROFL. While I was at the Edinburgh Fringe festival this month, I met a old lady with a rare neurological condition called aphonogelia. She came up to me after my show, and said that I was ‘funny’ but apologised for not laughing. I said that was normal and happens at a lot at my gigs. She then embarrassed me by telling me she had a rare medical condition – aphonogelia, a term for a neurologic finding in which a person is unable to verbalise laughter, or laugh out loud (LOL). Awkward.

You may remember a time when you were sad and someone tried to get you to laugh. When you finally did laugh, I suspect you actually did feel a bit better. So why does laughing feel so good? Well, a group of scientists have been studying laughing and think they know why laughing might have a feel-good effect. The study thinks they have answered the question of do we feel good because we laugh or do we laugh because we feel good?

This article says the scientists believe it is the physical act of laughing, rather than an intellectual pleasure, that makes laughing feel so right. According to the study, the muscular movements associated with laughing increase the production of endorphins, a chemical that is known to make people feel good.

The study was done by measuring resistance to pain after laughing. The results found that laughing increased pain resistance. The article says that pain resistance is typically used to measure endorphins because endorphins are hard to measure since they do not show up in blood samples. So now if you ever feel sad, you know that laughing can actually make your sadness go away. If you are even in pain, just laugh it off because your tolerance to pain will be increased!

I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person.

― Audrey Hepburn

Laughter makes sense. What else can so enjoyably exercise the heart and boost the mood? What else can serve so well as both a social signal and a conversational lubricant? What else can bond parents to children, siblings to one another and teach powerful lessons about staying alive? Laughter may seem like little more than an evolutionary dead-end, but if scientists studying it are right, we owe it an awful lot of thanks for some surprisingly serious things.

Robert R. Provine, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the author of the splendidly titled Laughter: A Scientific Investigation, (nice work) said he noted that laughter is that it's something we seldom do alone.

Laughter is 30 times more frequent in social than solitary situations.

That's not just because it's devilishly hard to tell yourself a joke and convincingly respond, "No, no, I really hadn't heard that one before." Rather, it's because most of the time laughter is more a tool of communication than anything else.

Whether or not what the stand up says is genuinely funny, any reciprocal laughter from the listener serves as a powerful reward pellet, reinforcing the direction of the conversation. It also flatters the comic, which can be a potent card to play when a conversation becomes flirtatious.

Another answer, reports Robin Dunbar, (a brilliant evolutionary psychologist at Oxford), is not the intellectual pleasure of cerebral humour, but the physical act of laughing. The simple muscular exertions involved in producing the familiar ha, ha, ha, he said, trigger an increase in endorphins, the brain chemicals known for their feel-good effect.

His results build on a long history of scientific attempts to understand a deceptively simple and universal behavior. “Laughter is very weird stuff, actually,” Dr. Dunbar said. “That’s why we got interested in it.” And the findings fit well with a growing sense that laughter contributes to group bonding and may have been important in the evolution of highly social humans.

Social laughter, Dr. Dunbar suggests, relaxed and contagious, is “grooming at a distance,” an activity that fosters closeness in a group the way one-on-one grooming, patting and delousing promote and maintain bonds between individual primates of all sorts.

It also helps relieve pain and is a strong medicine for mind and body. The findings, published in theProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, eliminated the possibility that the pain resistance measured was the result of a general sense of well being rather than actual laughter. And, Dr. Dunbar said, they also provided a partial answer to the ageless conundrum of whether we laugh because we feel giddy or feel giddy because we laugh. “The causal sequence is laughter triggers endorphin activation,” he said.

The biological and evolutionary origins of laughter I have considered before and I favour the idea of a mutation from tickling. However Dr. Dunbar thinks laughter may have been favored by evolution because it helped bring human groups together, the way other activities like dancing and singing do. Those activities also produce endorphins, he said, and physical activity is important in them as well. “Laughter is an early mechanism to bond social groups,” he said. “Primates use it.”

Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.

 Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D.

The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humour and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use

Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humour lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Shared laughter is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. All emotional sharing builds strong and lasting relationship bonds, but sharing laughter and play also adds joy, vitality, and resilience. And humour is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Laughter unites people during difficult times.

Although studying people’s sense of humour may seem like a trivial pursuit, it has important implications for health. Laughter, smiling and optimism are linked to better overall health. And getting certain types of jokes requires important social skills that can be impaired in conditions like autism and schizophrenia. Understanding the mechanics of humour may shed light on what goes wrong in those cases.

And sometimes, we just need a reminder to take everything, including ourselves, less seriously. Start creating opportunities to laugh, exploring, playing and creating novelty and…

  • Sign up here for one of my comedy workshops.
  • Go watch some stand up live.
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show.
  • Read the funny pages.
  • Seek out funny people.
  • Share a good joke or a funny story.
  • Host game night with friends.
  • Play with a pet.
  • Go to a laughter yoga class.
  • Do something silly.

Laughter is wine for the soul – laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness – the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living.

― Seán O'Casey

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