Laughter is something we all do – it’s universal among humans despite race and cultural differences. Laughter even comes before we can talk, which we see in happy, giggly babies. But why do we laugh and what are the benefits?
You might think the obvious – that we laugh because something is funny. But there’s also nervous laughter and some people even laugh when they’re scared. We even laugh at ourselves when we’re embarrassed! Research has pointed to the purpose of laughter as a way to alleviate tension and to illicit positive emotions in others, not only ourselves, which could explain why laughter is often thought of as contagious. Without even thinking, we often laugh when others are laughing. Laughter can also lighten your mood, reduce negative feelings, and it also fosters social engagement – it can bring people together. There’s also some evidence linking laughter to boosts in the immune system and muscle relaxation ("laughter is the best medicine!").
As we enter into the end of the school year with finals approaching, think about laughter as a free, quick, and easy way to alleviate stress and tension! While eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising are a few of the most well-referenced ways for you to take care of yourself during tense times – add laughter to that list and call up a friend, enjoy a light-hearted movie, or read a funny book to take a quick break from the stress of school!