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Isn’t it funny…?

On average, children laugh approximately 500 times per day. And adults? Well, what do you think? Start by asking yourself, how many times a day on average do you laugh?

Before I give you the research findings, let’s just think about laughter. Why do we do it? What purpose does it serve?

Laughter is a behaviour that can be found in a number of animal species, and it is exhibited in every human culture. That says a lot about it. In all corners of the globe, even the most remote tribes, humans have evolved with laughter. So why do we have this capacity?

The usual response to that sort of question is that it enhances our chances of survival in some way.

However, when we laugh we become inherently vulnerable. Our eyes close, our mouth opens, our legs are no good to us and we make noises which draw attention to ourselves. None of which would protect us or enable us to defend ourselves if we were being attacked.

No. The way that laughter serves us is through connecting us. It is not about predators or competition, but about acceptance and being part of a group. When we laugh we are indicating a shared experience, something that we both understand and feel positively towards. But more than that, the sometimes infectious nature of laughter means that we actually get drawn in to this group behaviour. This is effectively demonstrated by the use of ‘canned’ laughter in television programmes, encouraging you to join in and laugh more freely along with others.

And why wouldn’t you? Laughter is good for us. When we laugh we release endorphins which make us feel good, our immune system gets a boost, creativity and positive thinking is encouraged and we reduce the levels of stress and tension in our bodies. In a group, that same laughter connects us, improving communication and fostering relationships between its members.

However, increasing volumes of research which have been taking place in this field, now show us that there is a difference between laughter in men and women.

When it comes to choosing a mate or partner for themselves, both sexes rate laughter high on the list. It frequently implies intelligence, wit, cleverness and an enjoyment of life. But, fundamentally, women look for someone who can make them laugh…whereas men look for someone who will laugh at their jokes.

This is no mean feat though as we also find different things funny. Men prefer a slapstick style, they like one-liners and use physical or active humour. Conversely, women deliver narrative stories, use word play and have a more self-depreciating form of humour.

And how often we laugh? Well, I don’t know what you thought the outcome would be, but the research cays that children laugh an average of 500 times a day, whilst adults laugh just 14 times a day. 14 times? All those health and social benefits…14 times?

I don’t know about you, but I’d say that is no laughing matter.

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