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Matters of Fact

Want a health boost? Don’t underestimate the power of a great endorphin-releasing laugh! From decreasing stress and pain to increasing your immunity, here are some facts about laughter that may do good to your body as well as your soul:

Laughter is good medicine.

With even just a few seconds of laughter, feel-good endorphins are released, stress-causing cortisol is reduced and your cardiac system enjoys a quick aerobic workout without you having to break a sweat. [1]

A good belly laugh can help trim the waistline.

Ten to 15 minutes of hearty laughter can burn up to 40 calories and boost your heart rate by 20 per cent.[2]

Move over, downward dog, and make way for laughter yoga.

Created in India in the mid-1990s, this form of laughter therapy combines full-body laughter exercises with deep, centring yoga breaths. Like a cardio workout, laughter yoga brings more oxygen to the brain and body, helping you to feel more energized and relaxed.[3]

Laughter really is contagious!

Neurologists at University College London used magnetic resonance imaging to determine that the sound of laughter triggers the premotor cortical region of the brain. This area sends signals to facial muscles to move in a way that corresponds to the sound. The research also found that positive sounds were more contagious than negative sounds – helping to explain why you might break out in a goofy grin when you see someone laughing.[4]

Laughter isn’t just for humans.

Various studies suggest that dogs, rats and monkeys also enjoy a good chuckle. When chimps and dogs chase each other in play, they pant in a way that is like human laughter. Rats have also been found to chirp in a manner similar to how humans giggle, and love to be playfully tickled.[5]

History of the joke

From street performers in ancient Greece to the stand-up comedians of today, telling a great joke never gets old. Here’s a look back at where some popular styles of joke got their start.

Knock-knock jokes first appeared during the American prohibition era of the 1930s, when people had to knock on the door to get into a speakeasy. Drunk patrons often had fun with this, and thus the knock-knock joke was born.[6]

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Tank.” “Tank who?” “You’re welcome.”

The snappy five-line poem known as the limerick came into the spotlight in the 1800s, but few realize its unexpected origin in the 12th century. Italian friar Thomas Aquinas is credited with penning a few lines of prayer in a format similar to the modern poem we know and love. What makes a limerick? You must follow a strict set of rules. Lines 1, 2 and 5 must contain eight or nine syllables each, and their last words must rhyme. Lines 3 and 4 must contain five or six syllables each, and their last words must rhyme.[7]

There once was a man from Nantucket

Who kept all his cash in a bucket.

But his daughter, named Nan,

Ran away with a man,

And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

The chicken joke, a school-yard staple for decades, also enjoys a lengthy history. It first appeared in 1847 in a New York magazine called The Knickerbocker, with the original undergoing many transformations since then.[8]

Here are some favourite variations:

Why did the chicken go to the seance? To get to the other side.

Why did the duck cross the road? To prove he wasn't chicken!

Why did the rubber chicken cross the road? She wanted to stretch her legs.

The many styles of humour

Having a great sense of humour helps many people get through the day, whether it's good or bad, but what you think is funny might fall flat with someone else. Did you know there are actually nine different styles of humour? Research has found that physical comedy is the most popular, with dark humour coming in dead last.[9]

Here’s the rundown:

  1. Physical or slapstick (Three Stooges, anyone?)
  2. Self-deprecating (laughing at your shortcomings)
  3. Surreal (just plain silly)
  4. Improv (e.g., Second City)
  5. Word play (think puns and limericks)
  6. Topical (news of the day)
  7. Observational (Jerry Seinfeld is the master)
  8. Bodily (fart jokes)
  9. Dark (the least popular)

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[1] www.readersdigest.ca/health/healthy-living/laughter-is-good-medicine

[2] https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/11/13/10-fascinating-facts-laughter.aspx

[3] www.laughteronlineuniversity.com/laughter-yoga

[4] https://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/brain-health-news-80/study-finds-laughter-is-truly-contagious-600054.html

[5] www.livescience.com/6946-joke-animals-laugh.html

[6] www.rd.com/funny-stuff/joke-origins

[7] www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/limerick/stthomas.html

[8]www.kidspot.com.au/things-to-do/activity-articles/why-did-the-chicken-cross-the-road-jokes/news-story/ee22ac79dd9c42c687459c17eb3e2242

[9] www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/07/19/there-are-nine-different-types-of-humour-which-one-are-you_a_23036626