Whether you snort, cackle, or slap the table, laughing is something we all do without thought. This response can come out of nowhere, and we can find ourselves losing minutes to a fit of uncontrollable laughter. But when we’ve found our composure, it begs the question: why do our bodies laugh?
Babies cry. A lot. It’s not their fault though as they don’t have the means to communicate just yet. However, from as young as two months old they can make another noise: they laugh. As babies aren’t born fluent in any language, they need to use their built-in sounds to communicate. Much like crying, laughter is a way to tell their mother or another caregiver that everything is ok.
What makes us laugh?
Everyone has a different sense of humor – no matter how dark. This means that a whole host of things can set off different people. But it isn’t just jokes that can make us laugh. Seeing someone else laughing also has a significant effect on us, which we call ‘catching the giggles’. We can also start laughing if we feel stressed or nervous, as well as having someone tickle us. These are both said to be our bodies trying to reduce the stress of the situation – what clever brains we have!
Scientists are still stumped as to what it is in our brains that make us laugh, but it looks as though we aren’t the only being on Earth that feel the need to show our humor. It is thought that our ability to laugh actually comes from our primate ancestors. Gorillas and chimps may not laugh, but when they find something funny they make a panting noise – much like our laughter. It’s not just the great apes that display behavior like this either. Rats will also make a high pitch squeaking noise when they’re tickled or are playing with each other!
Why the laughter?
So why there may not be a reason as to what makes our brains laugh, there is reasoning behind why we do it. Laughter is a way of communication. Back in the days long before there was a language, our ancestors would still be able to make noises, such as laughing, in a way to tell everyone that all is good. Laughter is also social for us humans. Have you ever found yourself laughing to yourself? Chances are, it probably doesn’t happen that much. This is because laughter is actually contagious. In fact, you’re 30x more likely to laugh in a group than if you’re alone.
That feel-good feeling
It’s hard not to feel in a good mood after laughing. Our brains are overflowing with endorphins which help to make us feel happy. However, this might not be for the reasons you’re thinking. When we laugh, we are putting our muscles through an extreme, unpredicted workout as we tense our arm, leg, and abdominal muscles. This replicates the same strain from when we exercise. So does this mean that laughing could be a form of going to the gym? In a nutshell, yes! All that giggling may not burn as many calories, but it works your muscles and helps to give you a mood boost. Double bonus.
It looks as though there is a lot more to this laughing malarky than we once thought. While it can be a response to something funny, we now know that breaking out into a fit of giggles can help us build social bonds. Plus, it’s good for us! It looks like it might be time to turn on the comedy channel, burn some calories, and make some friends.