Happy families eat together. That is one of the basic tenants here at Let’s Pasta. We could also say that happy families laugh together, whether that is at the dinner table or not. Certainly, at our dinner table, there is often a lot of laughter as we relax with good food, share the day’s experiences, enjoy each other’s company and the abundance of life.
It turns out the old adage that laughter is the best medicine is really true, turbo charging all the benefits of eating together. Why is this? Let’s find out.
Laughter is a Form of Communication That Transcends Boundaries
Laughter is such a basic communication mode that we don’t even realize how often we laugh. Studies have shown that, in conversation, people laugh at a rate of about 5 laughs per 10 minutes of conversation, whether they are aware of it or not. We most often laugh when we are with others than when alone, and laughter is contagious, as we all know.
Similar to music, laughter is non-verbal, universal and a potent expression of social emotion. It has the power to erase boundaries and bring people of different generations and experiences together. For a moment at least, shared laughter signals commonality about something, enhancing the sense of connection. Eating together, especially when sharing delicious food that stimulates the senses, already builds bonds and communication, and laughing adds a vivifying dose of lightness and fun to the melange.
Of course we are referring to sharing laughter, not the derisive sort, which has the opposite effect.
Laughter is Good for the Body and Mind
Laughter immediately makes us feel good because it unleashes a cascade of physical and psychological effects that help explain its power to bring us together.
- Laughter increases the intake of oxygen, stimulating the heart, lungs and muscles.
- Laughter releases endorphins which are chemicals produced by the body to relieve stress and pain. Laughter also releases serotonin, an important hormone that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. Especially helpful while eating, serotonin also facilitates communication between the brain and the nervous system, helping with digestion and (later) sleep.
Over the long term, regular, heat-felt laughter has dramatic effects on health, in large part because laughter helps reduce stress through multiple pathways. The effects of lower stress aon health are far-reaching.
- Laughter decreases cortisol by increasing oxygen and circulation. A hearty laugh first stimulates, then dampens the stress response, increasing heart rate and blood pressure and then calming them. Just like a bout of healthy exercise, the result is a satisfied, relaxed feeling.
- Laughter and other happy thoughts and emotions release chemical messengers called neuropeptides that help build resilience to stress and boost the immune system.
- Constant, chronic stress is implicated in so many diseases from heart disease to obesity to depression that adding a daily dose of laughter can truly improve your health and quality of life on many levels. For example, studies have found that people who never laugh are 1.21 times more likely to suffer from heart disease than those who laugh every day.
Add a Sprinkle of Laughter to your Mealtimes
Being together at mealtimes brings so many health-promoting factors together that it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation as to which component is the most important or which gets the whole thing going. Is it being together with people you love that sets the ball rolling? Is it the relaxation that brings it all together? Is it communication and laughter? Is it the delicious pasta?
Wherever it starts, there is definitely a positive feed-back loop, with each component of a happy meal — good food and plenty of communication and laughter — building off each other to exponentialize the health benefits.
A health-giving meal could be seen as a whole system, with each of the multiple parts supporting each other and playing its unique role. Creating a happy, relaxed atmosphere is very important. So is the pasta, of course, and for multiple reasons! Delicious food helps create good feelings and relaxation, and good food, in itself, directly supports health. Laughter is the cherry on top of the delicious, health-giving meal-time experience.
Why not try some laughter with your pasta this week and reap the benefits!