Laughter Improves Health Essay example

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Laughter is an essential human phenomenon. Smiling in response to pleasant physical conditions occurs in early development, usually in the first month of life. As a motor reflex, laughter is usually present by the time a child is 4 months old. By the age of eighteen months, a child smiles once every six minutes, and by four years of age, the rate increases to one smile every one and one-third minutes. The ratio of laughs to smiles increases from one laugh to every ten smiles as eighteen months to one every three smile at four years. The individual differences in the rate of both laughing and smiling become greater as the children grow older. (Stearns, 1972) The instinctual development of smiling and laughing occurs very …show more content…
The causes of laughter can be divided into three main groups. One manifestation is laughter as a reflex, such as due to ticking. Another is as a psychosomatic response prompted by a specific stimulus. This is an informative stimulus such as a word, sentence, gesture, action, recollection, situation, etc. This requires the involvement of perception, learning, and memory. This reaction may or may not be terminated voluntarily. The third is again a psychosomatic response, but is differentiated because it is not caused by an adequate informative stimulus and can be terminated voluntarily.

Within this categorization, there are different types of laughter: mirthful laughter, pathological laughter, etc. Mirthful laughter, a lesser studied, but highly interesting type will be the focus of this discussion. A commonly held belief is that mirthful laughter and humor result in positive physical, psychological, and social fitness. With such a expansive area of influence, it is difficult to understand how such laughter influences the body.

Laughter in healing

Studies of the physiology of mirthful laughter, scientifically known as gelotology, are a fairly recent phenomenon. Descriptions of convalescence through positive emotional states have renewed interest in the healing potential of mirthful laughter. Norman Cousins' accounts of the therapeutic effects of laughter during his treatment and recovery from ankylosing spondylitis