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DPA / The Hindu / MUNICH, July 26, 2011.
Laughter’s effects on the body are largely hypothetical because clinical studies of them have been few - PTI.
It is medicine, it is free, and anyone can produce it anywhere at any time. What is it? Laughter.
All you need for your brain to send a signal to the body to laugh is to hear a good joke, be tickled, have nice people around you or experience a funny situation. “Then the reward system is switched on,” is how Michaela Schaeffner of the European Professional Association for Laughter Yoga and Humour Training describes the impulse to laugh that triggers a chain reaction.
An entire cocktail of happiness hormones flows through the body.
Serotonin, dopamine and the “cuddle chemical” oxytocin, which plays a role in breastfeeding and sex, are thought to be released. The body goes into relaxation mode, Schaeffner said. Deep abdominal breathing ensues, pain tolerance can increase and blood pressure can drop.
Laughter’s effects on the body are largely hypothetical because clinical studies of them have been few. The influence of feel—good endorphins, for example, is unproven.
“They’re so ephemeral that you’d have to amuse test persons with a cannula stuck in a vein and simultaneously measure the concentration of these neurotransmitters. That’s tricky,” remarked Carsten Niemitz, a human biologist at the Free University of Berlin. Not much is known about the processes that take place in the brain, either, since the body movements during laughter make magnetic resonance imaging impossible.
Laughter is akin to strenuous manual labour. More than 100 muscles are involved, “ranging from the face, neck and respiratory muscles to the intercostal muscles” that run between the ribs, Niemitz noted.
Forty muscles control facial expressions alone. The more intense the laughter is, the more muscles are moved from head to toe - the more the person is “convulsed with laughter,” as the saying goes.
Someone who says that his or her “stomach hurts from laughing so hard” is describing the sore diaphragm that follows a good belly laugh. “Stop making me laugh! I hurt all over already,” is a plea when laughing becomes a full body workout. “Doubling up with laughter,” like a forward bend in yoga, trains the muscles between the breastbone and pubic bone.
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