Science History

Introduction to Gelotology

Workers laughing at a clothing factory

Laughter is the best medicine. It is a popular saying that people use for many years. Not only is laughter good for our social health, but it is also a good way to boost our moods to start the day. Just by observing it, we can say that it brings a lot of positive benefits to our bodies, as well as to other people surrounding us.

The way people laugh shows interesting features that catch the attention of scientists, which became a point of study in our modern world. Furthermore, scientists often relate laughter to psychology and medicine, wherein it shows long term effects in our bodies. That is why they pursue the study of laughter in a field of science called gelotology, which aims to take advantage of its amazing effects.

This branch of science shows a more specific scope of study about laughter and its effects related to psychology. In this article, we are going to look into the more in-depth definition of gelotology. But first, let us know what laughter is.

What is Laughter?

We all know what laughter is. Just by watching our favorite comedy show and comedian would give us the burst of laughter that we need to boost our moods. Aside from this, there are many other factors that could provide us with a good laugh. However, laughter is not as simple as it seems since it consists of various scientific knowledge to understand how it works.

The definition of laughter says that it is a physical reaction in humans, which usually consists of rhythmical and audible contractions of the diaphragm, as well as other parts of the respiratory system. This contraction of the diaphragm often produces common sounds, such as ‘hee-hee’ or ‘ha-ha.’

This physical reaction is due to various external or internal stimuli, which include being tickled in some parts of our bodies, as well as humorous thoughts. A more common factor that triggers laughter is a variety of positive emotional states, such as joy, happiness, and relief. However, it could also be a result of negative emotional states, such as embarrassment, surprise, and confusion. Besides these, there are many other factors contributing to why a person laughs.

Moreover, laughter is a part of human behavior regulated by our brains. It helps us to provide a clearer intention in social interactions to avoid confusion, as well as provide emotional context to conversations. As we may have observed, we often use laughter during social interactions, which often shows a positive interaction with other people.

What is Gelotology?

Now that we already have a brief knowledge of laughter, let us now look into the properties of gelotology.

As mentioned earlier, gelotology is the branch of science devoted to the study of laughter and its psychological effects on the body. Its history did not originate from hundreds of years ago, but many scientists contributed to its development. The pioneer of the study of laughter was William F. Fry of Stanford University.

Interestingly, since scientists learned that laughter produces incredible benefits to a person, different therapies were developed to help patients. Instead of the natural exercise and therapy we often encounter, these various therapies offer more significant results to our bodies. Here are some of the therapies developed by scientists:

  • Humor and laughter therapy – is a type of therapy that uses humorous materials to encourage spontaneous discussion of the patients’ humorous experience. These humorous materials include books, movies, shows, or stories, which could be presented individually or in a group facilitated by a clinician.
  • Laughter meditation –is a type of therapy that has similarities to traditional meditation. This type of laughter focuses on the person to concentrate on the moment, through a three-stage process of stretching, intentional laughing, and meditative silence. This process could also be performed in a group setting.
  • Laughter yoga –is a type of laughter therapy that is also familiar with traditional yoga. It showcases an exercise that consists of breathing, yoga, and stretching techniques, accompanied by laughter. It offers a systematic format of exercise, including several laughter exercises for thirty to forty-five minutes, which should be facilitated by a trained individual. We can use this type of meditation as supplemental or preventive therapy.

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