Laughter Improves Health

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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 early in life, suggesting a high level of importance.

What is laughter?

The physiological definition describes laughter as "a successive rhythmic spasmodic expiration with open glottis and vibration of the vocal folds," or "as a series of spasmodic and partly involuntary expirations with inarticulate vocalizations. . ." These dictionary definitions emphasize a rhythmic and spasmodic expiration. While this is true, the motivations for it and its aftermath are much further reaching.

Why do we laugh?

There have been many theories over the years as to why we laugh. Freud suggested that during laughter, you discharge pent-up psychic energies. In a theory by V.S. Ramachandran, we laugh to alert others in the social group that an anomaly, whatever it is we are laughing at, is inconsequential. For example, if someone falls and is not hurt, we laugh to signal to others that the person is all right. The theories vary greatly, but there are so many attributes to the phenomenon o...

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