National Humor Month, Laughs and Smiles

Amid April showers or the lack of it, tax woes and the harsh reality that all New Year’s resolutions have been for naught, it is quite fitting for April to be designated as National Humor Month. Any month that’s ushered in with “Happy Fool’s Day” is the best candidate for a celebration of lighthearted exchanges, good-natured pranks and many ways to laugh. It is not a marked with a shopping extravaganza as other holidays tend to be because laughter, after all, comes free. The event was founded in 1976 by Larry Wilde, a comedian, writer and life coach. Funnyman Wilde sought to promote greater awareness of the therapeutic potential of laughter in improving morale, communication skills and overall health and quality of life. After 41 years, this month-long celebration is still going strong as even more science-backed research has shown the restorative value of humor in winning at life.

What it Takes to Laugh

Laughter may be audible or a quiet expression of merriment accompanied with a distinctive feeling of pleasure and joy. It is a brain-regulated reaction, and strong laughter may bring on tears and some muscle pain in certain areas. The onset may be preceded with a smile, displaying your teeth, which is a positive signal in social interactions. Laughter is a reaction to physical, visual and verbal stimuli, but it is also feedback, the effect of which may be contagious. Many TV shows still use recorded laugh tracks to encourage positive audience feedback.

Physiological Effects of Humor

It has been said that it takes fewer muscles to 
smile than it does to frown. But putting energy conservation aside, finding your funny bone can have an immediate impact on your mindset and attitude. Much like physical exercise, research has shown that guffaws large and small can boost the heart rate and increase blood flow to improve
circulation and oxygen delivery to the tissues. Facial muscles tend to stretch and calories are burned in the process. Even a simple smile can alter your mood and that of the people around you. Try baring your teeth in a cutesy way on that grumpy co-worker or the frazzled barista, and see what you get in return.

Laughter reduces cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone produced as a reaction to stressful conditions. Laughter increases the production of endorphins, which is a hormone involved in pain reduction. It has also been shown to increase T-cell production, proteins involved in building immunity and antibodies.

Bonus Effects

A deep-seated belly laugh can help relieve physical tension, relaxing tense muscles while relieving emotional stress in the process. This muscle-relaxation technique can have an impact on your body for up to 45 minutes with minimum sweating involved. Naturally, increasing blood flow and the circulation efficiency can boost cardiovascular health. Smiles, grins and laughter showcase your teeth and enviable dental work. Laughter is a valuable stress-management technique that can help everyone focus while building camaraderie and enhancing team effort.

Laughter and Fun by the Numbers

A survey conducted by SKOUT show that just about everyone understands the value of humor in life. Survey results showed that 75 percent of respondents consider themselves funny, and 94 percent profess that they like making people laugh. Those who confess to being practical jokers have the most close friends while those who favor self-deprecating or sarcastic wit have fewer friends. If you’re willing to change your zip code to incorporate more laughter in your life, Houston, Los Angeles and Atlanta are the places to go because this is where 98 to 100 percent of survey respondents indicated that they want you to have a good time.

Laughter may come easily for you, so you tend to take it for granted. Take this special talent, and spread the gift to those you encounter during National Humor Month and every day for the rest of your life.

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