Are you laughing enough?

laughing

I recently came across this Psychology Today post from 2011 that claims the average four-year-old laughs 300 times a day; meanwhile the average 40-year-old, in comparison, only laughs 4 times a day.  While the author, Pamela Gerloff,  admits she couldn’t find any conclusive citations to prove that these figures were accurate, there is a still a worthy message beneath the stark difference in how often adults laugh…However much we do it, we need to do it more!

Studies have shown that laughter really is the best medicine, boosting our bodies’ ability to heal itself. Gerloff references Norman Cousins who self-prescribed a “laughing cure” for his painful inflammatory arthritis. Cousins claimed that just 10 minutes of watching the Marx Brothers and laughing out loud each day allowed him to sleep pain-free for two hours and that, in general, his inflammation and overall pain were significantly reduced. Cousins chronicled his experience in the book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient which is available on Amazon.

Other studies have shown that laughter can produce a host of positive effects on the brain. One such study was conducted at Loma Linda University in California where researchers sought to find out if laughter had an effect on the stress levels and short-term memory abilities of older adults in their 60s and 70s. Their experiments found that adults who were subjected to “funny videos”, as opposed to sitting quietly, were able to perform significantly better on memory tests and had higher improvement over time when it came to later memory recall tests.

Just as noteworthy is the impact laughter can have on reducing the level of stress hormones, such as cortisol, in the brain. As we now know, cortisol can have a significant impact on learning – simply put, stress greatly impacts learning. So not only is laughter the best medicine but it may also be one of the best learning tools we can provide in the classroom. Laughter fosters joy and a joyful classroom is a space where children are comfortable and open to learning. Laughter also brings us together. There is such a great bond that comes from doubling over in laughter with your friend, tears streaming down your face, joined in the shared experience. Laughing with a friend is contagious, spreading your joy to those around you, inviting them in on a joke. Laughter in a classroom can have the same effect by binding the group together, adding to the sense of the community that we as educators are trying so hard to facilitate. I also think laughter simply makes you human, it shows your students you are a person with a range of emotions and someone who doesn’t take everything so seriously.

So laugh more grown-ups!

Laugh to create bonds, laugh for your brain and your memory, laugh to reduce stress, laugh for your students – and if all that isn’t enough then laugh to lose a couple of pounds. A Vanderbilt University study estimated that just 10-15 minutes of laughter a day can burn up to 40 calories, so there’s always that to motivate you!

Whatever your motivation, just do it!

Laugh like a four-year-old, laugh with a four-year-old…. Just laugh!

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