Funny. Ha Ha.
Laughter is contagious. It’s also universal. When you laugh, there is no question that you either find something funny or ‘laughable’, for whatever reason. We all have an inherent capacity for laughter.
We do know that laugher occurs because of different feelings within the body, like being tickled, or the brain producing certain thoughts, like a funny scenario. So we do know that the two go hand in hand. So is laugher an emotion? Some people can laugh when they are unhappy. How does this work?
Smiling and laughter can occur in babies as young as 2 months old. They surely haven’t the capacity to work out a funny joke. Unless you are it! Their brain may be thinking, ‘What on Earth got me here?’ Probably not. However, a baby’s body may feel something that the adult may describe as joy, or better yet, comfort. This feeling is inherent in us all. A baby knows when it’s comfortable or not. But what about all those ‘goo-goo gaga’ faces you make at your new-born? And that beautiful gargle laughter that comes. Well, perhaps they are being kind enough to humour you, since you’re going to so much trouble to make them laugh. Probably not. It’s probably closer to being the first signs of a baby feeling that ‘all eyes are on me’ and they love it. Babies are naturally born narcissistic. In a good way! It’s all about them. And it should be.
Why Laughter? What happens you when laugh, mind body and soul connection.
Which comes first, the tickly feeling and then laughter, or laughter and then the tickly feeling? Or is it that you hear the joke and register it as funny first? Then you get the tickly feeling? Then you laugh? We can look at all three as they are equally as important as each other.
Laughter helps the brain regulate the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol. The founding father of Gelotology, the scientific study of the psychological, physiological and neurological effects of laughter, was Norman Cousins, who used himself as a study participant. He discovered a link between laughter and the production of anti-bodies and endorphins, the body natural pain killers. Laughter is also a fantastic distraction away from any stressful situation, anger, or procrastination.
Your brain will register what it hears, feels or touches. Therefore an idea, thought or image will be taken in by either seeing or hearing, all through the senses. The body then reacts.
The physical release you experience when you laugh kick starts a rebalancing and rejuvenation of your energies. In doing so, you will also experience an emotional release. The neurotransmitter Dopamine, also known as “the pleasure hormone,” regulates focus, mood, learning, and motivation.
Laughter also reduces your stress hormones, and gives the feeling of a great release. It also enhances your health hormones such as endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones and this contributes to the good feeling and sometimes euphoric feeling you experience with laughter.
Even greater benefits include the increase of the number of anti-body producing cells, which therefore enhances the effectiveness of T-Cells (cell mediated immunity), strengthening your immune system.
Laugher is known as the cure to all ills. I mentioned earlier the famous author and politician Norman Cousins who suffered from heart disease. He developed a recovery programme of taking Vitamin C and laughter. He is one of our original pioneers for natural medicines. He stated, “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an aesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.” Cousins survived an incredible 36 years after first being diagnosed with heart disease. His best-selling book, ‘Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing, remains one of alternative medicines’ go-to book on ways to be creative and to take charge of your own healing abilities.
Laughter is also a very social attraction. People always want to look into the direction in which there is laughter. It radiates an energy of lightness. Suddenly wherever there is laughter there is brightness and light. This will increase your social capabilities since it connects you with others. This in itself reduces your stress levels. And since we’ve already established its contagious quality, others will often want to join in. There is also no doubt that if you have a sense of humour, you will indeed be quite popular. Everyone likes to be around laughter. And those who find it a problem may need a good dose of Vitamin D (sunshine) and try doing thing that will reduce their depression.
So what makes us laugh?
How often do we hear someone else’s laughter and find that we want to laugh as well. Or we may begin to recall good jokes or funny incidents that have happened to ourselves or others just to keep the laughter flowing. When was the last time you had a belly-aching laugh? A laugh that was so intense, so incredibly rich that it went right down into your belly?
Laughter may consist of a set of gestures and the production of a sound. When laughter occurs, the brain knows that it has heard something and then is spontaneously jolted into a physical reaction. As much as we feel better after a good cry, we feel even better after a good laugh. There are many ways to induce laugher.
-watching funny films
-visiting a comedy club
-reading a funny book
-joking with friends and family
-finding the humour in your life
-watching comedy TV programmes
Laughter Yoga is one form of exercise that is somewhat similar to traditional yoga, as it incorporates breathing, yoga, and stretching techniques with laughter. There is a structured format which includes laughter exercises for a period of up to 45 minutes facilitated by a trained professional. It can be used as complementary or preventative therapy.
Sometimes the old simple trick of looking directly into a mirror can make you laugh. Especially if you are someone who doesn’t take yourself so seriously. We can laugh at ourselves. But we must take care at what we laugh at in others. We have all been the butt of a joke by someone at some time in our lives. And we know that people have different senses of humour. This is simply due to our life experiences, belief systems and learnt moral compasses. Topics vying for the attention of laugher are politics, religion, sex and race. And these topics are often the most controversial subjects to steer clear of when you consider what to laugh at, or that which to make fun.
If you haven’t had a good laugh lately, perhaps you can ask yourself why? If you are finding it difficult to find the humour in things, you could be suffering from depression. If you are finding everything in life funny to an ill-proportionate amount, then there may be cause for concern. When in doubt, speak with friends or family members, or your GP.
Why the funniest people are usually the most tragic?
Robin Williams. Richard Pryor. John Belushi. Chris Farley. Phil Hartman. Freddie Prinz. Greg Giraldi. Joan Rivers.
These comedians died tragically from substance abuse, suicide or homicide, or medical neglect. And the list goes on. But they didn’t die because they were comedians. They died because they are human. There are many who died as they did who aren’t comedians. In our culture, we often find it perhaps more ‘relatable’ if we can categorise or summarise groups of people. The reality is that human beings can suffer from a range of afflictions: addictions, depression, bad choices and neglect. Society has somehow linked the comedian to the ‘tragic figure’. I believe this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, the only group you may be able to link them to is the ‘group of the gifted’. That is their inherent spiritual gift, to make others laugh. How they died is the human side of mortality.
It is a gift to be able to make others laugh. We can all do it, whether we believe so or not. There are all kinds of humour. You know what usually makes you laugh. So go get some laughter. Or go and induce it in others. That is your gift. Please give it to others.
Special thanks and credit to: picture of group yoga www.thetimes.co.uk