October 21, 2015
Children laugh between 100 and 500 times each day, which amounts to laughing once every 2-9 minutes. Adults, on the other hand, laugh about 11-21 times a day, which can be less than once per hour.
Any of us who have been in a room full of children versus a room full of adults understands this idea. Kids laugh more than we do. So, why does this matter?
Because laughter, in a literal sense, is medicine. From a neurological, physiological, and medical perspective, a good laugh (or, even a fake laugh) produces biochemical and physical changes in the body.
A short list of which includes:
- increased oxygen intake, which stimulates heart and lung function
- increased release of endorphins and natural painkillers in the brain
- activation of stress-release response, which produces euphoria
- improved circulation—the vibrations produced by laughing massage the body’s circulatory system and infuse it with oxygen (imagine shaking a jar of water…see the bubbles?)
- improved immune system—just as negative thoughts create chemical reactions in the body (like the release of cortisol), positive thoughts release neuropeptides, which raise the body’s ability to fight cellular stress and illness
More than all of this: Laughter is contagious.
Seriously, it is. The actual sound of laughter, when it hits our eardrums, activates a part of the brain called the premotor cortex. This triggers an involuntary movement of our facial muscles to correspond with the sound—specifically, the tightening of the lips, the opening of the jaw, and the raising of the eyebrows. Researchers have found that the reason for this is simple: So that we are prepared to join in!
Like laughter, the strengths, too, trigger unconscious responses in others. That is, when we are around others who are ‘in the zone’ we, understandably, admire it and seek it.
Let’s consider a time—past or present—when we were around someone who was really, truly happy with their life and thriving (hopefully that is us!). Did we not remark on their happiness and then consider some component of that in our lives? Like, “How could I be like that?” or, even, “I wonder if I could ever be that happy with my life.”
In both cases, the person’s state inspired contemplation in us and an inward glance. And, in that same way, the strengths are contagious. No, it’s not in the sense that we could “catch” empathy or significance from someone. Rather, more globally, when we are living in our strengths, we are being our true selves; and that is something that people notice.
When others see it in us it gives them the courage to see it in themselves and to be who they are also. The way laughter can spread like a contagion from one side of the room to the other, the willingness to be who we truly are, too, can expand.
By focusing on our strengths we are likely concentrating on places within ourselves where we feel confidence and certitude, which over the long term translate to forward movement. Others are attracted to that. Even if others scoff or scorn the joys of others, the fact remains that we all seek fulfillment and joy—however it is that we define the terms.
So, how much do we laugh in a day? What makes us laugh? Can we observe the contagious nature of laughter and joy in our world? What are we focusing on? How could we add one laugh per hour to our days? How has our sense of humor changed or stayed the same over time? Are we grown up versions of our child-selves? Are we…?
Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.