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Laughter, Good for Body, Mind & Society III:

4 Social Benefits of Laughter

Just how good is laughter? After 2 weeks, I’d have to say pretty well. After all, some people claim it’s better than exercise. Others point out it’s also good for our mental well-being. But there’s more. Laughter has a social component and its benefits complement the other two. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Today I will be sharing those benefits.

  • Promotes BondingRobin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford, stated in a 2011 study that laughter, in social settings, is “grooming from a distance,” an activity that fosters closeness in a group the way one- way grooming, patting, and delousing promote and maintain bonds between individual primates of all kinds.” “Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that ‘shared laughter’ may communicate to others that we have a similar worldview, which strengthens our relationships.”
  • Resolves Conflict – Humor, and laughter can defuse tension in both the workplace and social settings. Pattie Porter, LCSW, the Texas Conflict Coach, teaches clients that when used properly, “laughter can be a valuable tool for defusing tensions brought on by conflict.”
  • Builds Communication Pete Linkroum, a combat veteran turned oncology nurse, found, through his own experience, that laughter broke down barriers and led to better communication with patients and others.
  • Enhances Romance – A 2011 article published in Psychology Today by Gil Greengross, Ph.D., an evolutionary anthropologist, cited work by Christopher Wilbur and Lorne Campbell. Their study showed that humor is an important factor in the dating process.

What Have I learned in three weeks? I see laughter in a totally different light. It’s a gift. Study after study shows it exercises our muscles, benefits our mental health and when used properly can strengthen relationships. Socially, it helps us to shift our perspective, adjusting to situations that would otherwise be difficult to handle. It’s a physical and emotional tool. You may not be able to hold it in your hand, but it’s still a tool and its benefits have been well-documented. Growing older for many is not an easy task. Laughter helps seniors adapt. I hope you’ll join me next week when we wrap this series with a brief article from Thomas J. Harvey and the results he gets from his laughter therapy seminars.