Contrary to folk wisdom, most laughter is not about humor.

Laughter is part of the universal human vocabulary. All members of the human species understand it. Unlike English or French, we don’t have to learn to speak it. We’re born with the capacity to laugh.

One of the remarkable things about laughter is that it occurs unconsciously. You don’t decide to do it. While we can consciously inhibit it, we don’t consciously produce laughter. That’s why it’s very hard to laugh on command or to fake laughter.

Laughter provides powerful, uncensored insights into our unconscious. It simply bubbles up from within us in certain situations.

Very little is known about the specific brain mechanisms responsible for laughter. But we do know that laughter is triggered by many sensations and thoughts and that it activates many parts of the body.

When we laugh, we alter our facial expressions and make sounds. During exuberant laughter, the muscles of the arms, legs, and thighs are involved. Laughter also requires modification in our pattern of breathing.

We also know that laughter is a message that we send to other people. We know this because we rarely laugh when we are alone. We don’t even laugh to ourselves that much compared to the way we talk to ourselves.

Laughter is social and contagious. We laugh at the sound of laughter itself. That’s why the Tickle Me Elmo doll is such a success- it makes us laugh and smile.

The first laughter appears at about 3.5 to 4 months of age, long before we’re able to speak. Laughter is a way for a preverbal infant to interact with the mother and other caregivers.

It is found that most of our laughter does not follow jokes. Our brain makes the decision for us. These curious “ha ha ha’s” are bits of social glue that bond relationships.

When we laugh, we’re often communicating playful intent. So laughter has a bonding function within individuals in a group. It’s often positive, but it can be negative too. There is a difference between “laughing with” and “laughing at”. People who laugh at others may be trying to force them or compel or casting them out of the group. No one has actually counted how much people of different ages laugh, but most probably young children laugh the most. It’s a burst of carefree laughter produced from unadulterated happiness.

We should also learn to laugh more. It not only creates positive vibes around us but also helps us to stay happy and relaxed even in stressful situations.