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Laugh – to express certain emotions, especially mirth or delight, by a series of spontaneous, usually unarticulated sounds often accompanied by corresponding facial and bodily movements.

Laughter is pretty much universal and an expression that is seen across all human cultures. We are basically born with the capacity to laugh. Babies begin to laugh within the first few months of life,long before they are able to speak. Laughter, like crying, is a way for a preverbal infant to interact with the mother and other caregivers. And studies suggest dolphins, monkeys, dogs and even rats love a good laugh.

One of the remarkable things about laughter is that it occurs unconsciously. While we can consciously inhibit it, we don’t consciously produce laughter. That’s why it’s very hard to laugh on command, fake a laugh and why we sometimes laugh at something that is not funny.

Some even say that laughter can be considered a great aerobic exercise. When you express yourself through a hearty laugh, you push air out until you can’t push out any more. This creates an energizing effect because of the increased oxygen going into your system.

Neurophysiology indicates that laughter is linked with the activation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex that produces those great “feel good” endorphins and parts of the limbic system, which is involved in emotions and helps us with functions necessary for human survival.

Ongoing research finds humor can also have a pain reduction effect, possibly due to the combination of an endorphin boost, the muscle relaxing effect from the physical response to laughter, and simply the distraction from pain that humor offers.

Researchers in Japan have found that laughter and positive emotions consistently reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics, improve breathing in asthmatics, contribute to healthy cardiac function and have positive effects on COPD (chronic pulmonary obstructive disease), arthritis and skin allergies.

Laughter has also been shown to lead to reductions in the stress hormones – cortisol and epinephrine and can boost the number of antibody-producing cells, enhancing the effectiveness of T-cells which in turn strengthens the immune system.

So go ahead – laugh a little or a lot. It’s a necessity and one of the most basic, simple things we have at our disposal to help us enjoy a healthy, happy life.

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