Why we laugh and cry
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As humans we laugh and cry, but seldom do we question how, or why. There are many processes involved in both responses. Cultures around the world allow both crying and laughing as acceptable behaviors. With crying, as well as laughter, the body goes through physical or chemical changes. Crying and laughter are beneficial to us both emotionally and physically. We must have them to function in the world.
Crying is a more complicated process than one would at first imagine. First of all, there are really three different types of tears. Basal tears keep our eyes lubricated constantly. Reflex tears are produced when our eyes get irritated, like with onions or when something gets into our eyes. The third kind of tear is produced when the body reacts emotionally to something. Each type of tear contains different amounts of chemical proteins and hormones. Scientists have discovered that the emotional tears contain higher levels of manganese and the hormone prolactin, and this contributes in a reduction of both of these in the body; thus helping to keep depression away. Many people have found that crying actually calms them after being upset, and this is in part due to the chemicals and hormones that are released in the tears.
How then actually do we cry? The psychic tears (or emotional tears) require an emotional response, or trigger to be activated. This response can be caused by an outside source, either pain or loss of love, etc., or from an inside source (self-realization of one's life and others). When emotions affect us, the nervous system stimulates the cranial nerve, in the brain and this sends signals to the neurotransmitters to the tear glands. Thus, we cry .The largest tear gland, the lacrimal gland produces the tears of emotion and reflex. Many believe that the body, in times of emotional stress, depends on this gland to release excess amounts of chemicals and hormones, returning it to a stable state.
There are many culturally acceptable reasons to cry in society .The first accepted reason to cry is probably death. Grieving includes crying and often times it was believed that if someone did not cry, they would suffer physically because they did not release their pain. Experiences in life and love are other reasons society allows us to cry. Women have been allowed to cry more than men traditionally, but the benefits of crying seem to suggest that men need to cry more. Cultures around the world have crying out of obligation, for show, and for grief and pain. Each culture defines where and when it is acceptable to cry. Cultures, in some parts of the world, sometimes determine the length of crying and mourning. For example, in the Zuni culture, a chief allows the mourners of the dead to cry for four days after which the chief says that the death occurred four years ago, and now the mourning may end.
As well as with crying, laughter is also acceptable culturally for a variety of reasons. Often, just because of where a person lives, something may be funny and make them laugh. It may not be funny anywhere else in the world. Also, their culture and community may dictate what is appropriate to laugh at and what is not. People have often said, "Laughter is the best medicine," and they may not be too far from the truth. When we laugh, the body makes facial gestures and sounds. The body relaxes during laughter. The diaphragm, abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles all get a workout. Scientists have found that
laughing one hundred times is equal to a ten-minute workout on a rowing machine, or fifteen minutes on an exercise bike. Laughter helps promote healing in the body by lowering blood pressure and increasing blood flow. When we laugh, the production of T -cells that destroy tumors and viruses increase, and more Gamma interferon (which is a disease fighting protein) is released. Laughter has been found to reduce the amount of stress hormones and help us cope with our lives better. When others laugh, sometimes the laughter can be contagious. Everyone around them starts to laugh. Some people, when stressed or upset, go to a funny movie or a comedy club hoping to laugh all of their negative emotions away.
There is a special name for the physiological study of laughter. It is called Gelotology. Scientists have discovered that within four- tenths of a second of seeing something humorous, an electrical wave moved through the cerebral cortex of the brain. If the wave took a negative charge, there was laughter. Many areas of the brain are involved in making us laugh. The emotional, the intellectual, and the sensory processing parts of our brain all playa role in stimulating the motor sections of our brain to physically make us laugh.
Researchers have found that laughter is used in making and strengthening our connections with each other. People that are more dominant, like a boss or head of a family, for example, use more humor than others around them. Laughter becomes away to show power over the emotional climate of the group. When someone is embarrassed or threatened, laughter can defuse the situation by deflecting the anger and accepting humiliation.
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