The Lost Art of Laughter

Listening to the morning radio the other day I heard them discussing how kids apparently laugh 40 times a day on average, compared to an adult laughing just 4 times.

This got me thinking, firstly if there’s any truth to these figures.  While I would completely agree kids laugh far more often than adults, I wondered if the exact figures had any substance to them.

There have been a few studies to try and answer the question, with one study¹ from the University of Western Ontario reporting that adults laugh approximately 18 times per day.  Unfortunately, this study only looked at adults, and not children.

A second study² by the University of Berlin found that friends and stranger laughed approximately 5.8 times per 10-minute conversation (or 35 times per hour) which suggests that people laugh more when engaged in natural conversation.  I’m sure many of us would agree with this finding from our own personal experience too.

Now if we look at studies relating to children and laughter, research³ at the Purdue University observed that infants interesting with their mother laughed around 18 times per hour at the high point of 2-years of age.

By the age of 5 children were seen to laugh around 8 times per hour, especially during play.

Although these figures show that each study shows completely different amounts of laughter, we can still conclude that as we age, we generally laugh less than during our infancy.

We can only speculate on why this is.  It is possible because as we age we often forget how to play.  In his book, Play it Away,  Charlie Hoehn teaches the art of play to reduce anxiety.  From my own experience, this does work well – after all, if you are having fun, it’s hard to be anxious at the same time, right?

And as adults, we definitely play less and become more serious.  Children are naturally inexperienced at life, and less serious than adults.

Everything is generally a new experience, not taken for granted and seen as a wonder.  From playing on play equipment to seeing a funny face is a kind of miracle.

But as we grow up, even as teenagers we enter the “know it all” stage.  We’ve seen everything, done everything and our lives become more routine.  There is less play, less fun and less laughter.

Our laughs often come via the way of television shows and movies, which there is nothing wrong with either.

So How Can We Laugh More?

Well if we look back at the research we can conclude that children laugh more during play and fun activities.  And adults laugh more during social interactions.

This could be why laughing is often seen as contagious.  We know that mirror neurons fire when we observe others doing a particular action or behaviour.  This could be extended to laughter, too.

Seeing someone else smile often results in us smiling.  And seeing someone else laugh often results in us laughing too.  So all we need to do is spend more time in social situations, having naturalistic conversations that lead to co-laughter.

Of course, laughing alone isn’t to only reason to spend more time interacting socially.  Research also suggests that positive every day social interaction leads to a greater sense of well-being, and what can be more positive than sharing a laugh with someone?

Conversation isn’t the only way to laugh with others though, we can also sit down and watch a TV show or movie with others.  Often these can also provide small conversational interactions between two or more people too.

And going back to the play factor, we can try and participate in more outgoing, fun activities.  Thinking back to your childhood, at what point did you stop doing what you loved?

Maybe it was a sport, soccer or tennis.  Maybe it was a music club or being part of a band.  With the internet and social sites, it’s very easy to find something to be part of these days.

Combining group exercise and fun is also often a great way to laugh and improve well-being.  Group Bootcamp classes often become “family-like” with various personalities meshing together to provide a good time.  Not only do you get to laugh, but you get to exercise at the same time.

Only you know you though, figure out what makes you laugh and experiment incorporating more of it into your daily life and see what happens.

  1. http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1999-15807-001
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/B:JONB.0000023654.73558.72
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249929424_Laughter_in_mother-infant_emotional_communication

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