Everywhere in the world, human babies start laughing all on their own between the ages of 2 and 4 months. What I mean by that is that no one actually teaches them, they just laugh. Research shows that even deaf and blind babies start laughing on that same time table. Laughter researcher Robert Provine, a neuroscientist, has speculated that laughter may have been one of the original forms of human communication. Early humans may have laughed as a way to bond with their fellow tribe members or to let someone they came in contact with know that they were not aggressive. Laughter is definitely a social activity. Just try to maintain laughter (real or fake) for any significant amount of time by yourself. If you can do it, you’re probably suffering from a severe form of schizophrenia.
Believe it or not, human beings are not the only animals that laugh. In fact, all mammals have the ability to express themselves through laughter. Just give a good listen to dogs chasing one another in the yard. You’ll hear them making a panting sound that is unique to play. Professor Provine believes that this “pant, pant, pant” sound is what eventually evolved into ha, ha ,ha in humans. A study by another neuroscientist found that even rats (Yes, they are mammals. I googled it.) laugh when they are tickled.
In 2006, a team of British neuroscientists proved that laughter may truly be contagious. They were able to demonstrate that simply hearing laughter triggers brain responses that cause you to laugh, which in turn causes other people to laugh and so on and so on... It’s a lot like when you witness someone else yawning and then you feel compelled to yawn. It turns out that laughing is actually an involuntary response much like breathing, except that it is triggered by outside stimulus as opposed to the need to survive.
Although the study of laughter is in its infancy, Dr. Michael Miller has found that our blood vessels regard stress and positive emotional behavior such as laughter as opposites. It’s been shown that laughter appears to expand or dilate the blood vessels, but stress constricts, which is a known contributing factor of heart disease. It’s also been found that people who laugh on a regular basis tend to live 8-10 years longer than those who don’t.
The truth is that laughing makes us feel good. As human beings, we are more greatly affected by positive expressions from others than by negative. This strong reaction gives laughter the ability to override most, if not all, of our negative emotions. The term “breaking the ice” actually means to lighten up a tense or uncomfortable situation by making someone laugh. There is even an extreme form of contagious laughter that has been spreading through churches across North America called “Holy Laughter”. The followers of holy laughter believe that God laughs through them (watch out speaking in tongues) and they often fall to the floor laughing uncontrollably.
If you’re feeling like you don’t have enough laughter in your life or you’d just like to live a bit longer, just take this advice that my dear sweet mother so often gave to me; “GET THE HELL OUT OF THE HOUSE AND GO PLAY WITH YOUR FRIENDS”. I promise dude, if you take that to heart you will live a long life full of boundless joy and much laughter.