Having a laugh is a serious matter

Rev Sean Blackman says laughter is good for the body and soul
Rev Sean Blackman says laughter is good for the body and soul

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Every year, thousands converge on Edinburgh for the celebrated festival’s comedy line-up.

Here are some of the most popular jokes of the festival:

‘I bought a muzzle for my pet duck. Nothing flashy, but it fits the bill.’

‘Went to my allotment and found there was twice as much soil as there was the week before. The plot thickens.’

‘I decided to sell my Hoover... well it was just collecting dust.’

And last year’s winner: ‘My dad has suggested that I register for a donor card. He’s a man after my own heart.’

There is no magic formula to what makes us laugh.

Scott Weems, a research scientist at the University of Maryland, says, ‘What often makes us laugh is when our brain is expecting one thing and then, in the space of a few words, that expectation is turned on its head.’

Take the classic Groucho Marx joke: ‘I wouldn’t want to join any club that would have … someone like me as a member.’

However, laughter is a serious matter.

It is a powerful healing agent, and there are real health benefits packed in laughter.

Laughter decreases pain. In 2013, a team of Swiss pain experts presented a study at the Congress of the European Pain Federation EFIC in Florence and argued, ‘Humour is a suitable strategy for increasing pain tolerance on the one hand, and for improving the quality of life in chronic pain patients on the other.’

And laughter reduces stress. A Loma Linda University research team found in a 2001 study that by engaging the diaphragm, laughing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms down the entire body and releases endorphins that counter stress.

A study presented at the European Congress on Obesity in 2005 found 10 to 15 minutes of laughter could burn 10 to 40 calories a day, which may amount to about four pounds a year.

The Bible says, ‘A joyful heart is good medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones’ (Proverbs 17:22).

Is it any wonder, everybody likes a good laugh?