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A chuckle a day keeps the doctor away—and can bring us closer.

There are many benefits to life and health from laughter, according to an article by Melanie Winderlich of the Discovery Channel. Laughter…

  • Relieves stress.
  • Boosts your immune system.
  • Helps with pain relief.
  • Gives your muscles a workout.
  • Lightens a mood.
  • Changes an attitude.
  • Balances blood pressure.
  • Improves blood flow.
  • May hold down blood glucose levels.
  • Connects you with others.
  • Energizes you.
  • Is free!

As if that’s not enough, Psychology Today says it cements relationships:

So much of our attitude about life and our capacity to meet life’s challenges depends on the quality of the relationships we have, especially our most intimate relationships, that when they go sour, life tends to feel bleak. Because the quality of our relationships has a powerful effect on physical and mental balance, as well as our sense of satisfaction in life, it’s important that we keep our relationships rewarding and fresh…

But of all the elements that contribute to the warm atmosphere of a good relationship, there is one that seldom gets translated into advice or even therapy, yet is something that everyone desires and most people would like more of: Laughter.

It’s a safe bet that most of the laughs married couples get come from TV laugh tracks, not from each other. They don’t emanate from the relationship. More important, they don’t feed it. And if the jokes that make the rounds by email are any gauge, often they are at the expense of it.

But homegrown laughter may be what ailing couples need most. Uniquely human, laughter is, first and foremost, a social signal—it disappears when there is no audience, which may be as small as one other person—and it binds people together. It synchronizes the brains of speaker and listener so that they are emotionally attuned.

These are the conclusions of Robert Provine, Ph.D., a neuroscientist who found that laughter is far too fragile to dissect in the laboratory. Instead, he observed thousands of incidents of laughter spontaneously occurring in everyday life, and wittily reports the results in Laughter: A Scientific Investigation (Penguin Books, 2001).

Laughter establishes—or restores—a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people, who literally take pleasure in the company of each other. For if there’s one thing Dr. Provine found it’s that speakers laugh even more than their listeners. Of course levity can defuse anger and anxiety, and in so doing it can pave the path to intimacy.

Most of what makes people laugh is not thigh-slapper stuff but conversational comments. “Laughter is not primarily about humor,” says Dr. Provine, “but about social relationships.”

SALMON Health and Retirement