Importance of Laughter

If “laughter is the best medicine,” why do so few take a daily dose?

Learning from the Children

Watch a child at play. What do you see? More importantly — what do you not see?

You won’t see stress lines between his brows. There is an absence of anxiety. Rather, a child’s face tells the story: it’s all about having fun!

A child at play is an example of emotional freedom — something that is crucial to the well-being of every human on planet earth.

As we age, we take on responsibilities and obligations that somehow replace the freedom of childhood. But, it doesn’t need to. You, too, can learn to get back in touch with your playful side. All it takes is a little courage and a dose of knowledge as to its importance.

An Easy Exercise

Watch the old Robin Williams’ movie, Hook.  In it, Peter Pan — all grown up — learns to reconnect with his playful side.

If this movie doesn’t teach you the importance of play … well, you probably need to send me an email and set up a private coaching appointment!

Laughter: Scientifically Speaking

There is an actual science to laughter.  Understanding why and how we laugh is a first step toward understanding its importance.

A recent study — as published by Psychology Today — discusses the issue:

However happy we may feel, laughter is a signal we send to others and it virtually disappears when we lack an audience.

Most of us don’t laugh out loud when we are alone. When we are alone, who is there to “signal” with our laughter?  The social connection is important, then, in understanding the importance of laughter.

As humans, we are social beings.  If your life lacks enough laughter, you might fall into one of the following categorical traps:

  • social isolation
  • emotional isolation
  • lack of stress mastery

Social isolation: If you spend too much time by yourself, your opportunities for laughter are likely limited to television shows, books, and memories.  And even in those “funny” situations which might otherwise garner a boisterous laugh, doing so while alone is not often practiced.  Why?  Because we lack an audience!  If this sounds like you, it’s time to get out of the house and play!

Emotional isolation: Even those people who are frequently in the company of others may too seldom laugh and play because their mind is isolated.  They are engaged in thoughts unrelated to the environment and/or immediate situation.  These people fail to “stop and smell the roses” when walking through a garden.  If this sounds like you, it’s time to allocate some of those brain cells to the “here and now.”

Lack of Stress Mastery: This category includes folks with the inability to “let go” long enough to laugh!  It’s closely related to — and often corresponds with — emotional isolation.  A person who is just too wound up finds it difficult to let down his guard enough to laugh out loud or to play.  Playing and laughing require a certain amount of vulnerability, the ability to “look or sound silly” and not care.  Someone who is on stress-over-drive, who doesn’t know how to deal with that stress, frequently fails to laugh.  It’s a Catch-22 in that laughter helps to reduce stress, yet too much stress inhibits laughter.  If you fall into this category, it’s time to learn how to manage that stress!

Medically Speaking

Laughter as medicine is a long-held understanding, but has it been proven?  Is there an actual medicinal benefit to laughter?  Apparently, yes.

According to Northwestern University professor Jeffrey Burgdorf, it has been shown (in rats) that laughter changes the chemical make-up of the brain, acting to reduce depression and anxiety.  He suspects that the same thing occurs in humans, and gives researchers a new area of the brain to consider in their attempts at curing depression and anxiety disorders.

My only question is:  How did they get the rats to laugh?

~ Lynda C. Watts
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4 Responses to Importance of Laughter

  1. william wallace says:

    LAUGHTER CAN BE THE COVER IN HIDING ONES
    ANXIETY AS ONE’S POOR STATE OF DEPRESSION.

    ONE MUST PUT PEOPLE TO A SIMPLE TEST THUS
    ONE FINDING IF THEIR LAUGHTER BE NATURAL
    OR BROUGHT BY THEIR ANXIETY / DEPRESSION.

    THE FOLLOWING JOKE USED BY THE WORLDS
    VERY BEST PSY’TRISTS & THERAPISTS TO SEE
    IF A PERSONS LAUGHTER IS FROM A NATURAL
    SENSE OF HUMOUR OR FROM MENTAL STRESS.

    ONLY THOSE HAVING AN NATURAL SENSE OF
    HUMOUR FIND THE FOLLOWING JOKE FUNNY.

    TWO NUNS RIDING BICYCLES DOWN A COBBLED STREET.
    FIRST NUN “I HAVE NEVER COME THIS WAY BEFORE”.
    SECOND NUN “IT MUST BE BECAUSE OF THE COBBLES”.

    • lyndacwatts says:

      I agree that often laughter is a response to anxiety. That’s not true laughter, but is instead just a nervous response. The blog article refers only to genuine, heart-felt laughter.

      And, I’m sorry to say, I don’t get the joke. Maybe it’s because I’m blonde, or maybe it’s because you are possibly from a region other than the US? My Indian doctor (who I adore!) told me a joke earlier this week, and as he laughed at his own joke, two nurses and I just stared at one another with a “Huh?” expression on our faces. When he left the room, someone said, “Indian humor.” THEN we all laughed out loud…

  2. Davis Rhodes says:

    I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep. When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently it would lead to another pain-free interval.

  3. Brian Tuohy says:

    Laughter, like crying, can be the base response for a number of emotions or situations. This blog and the comments made to date already cover nervousness and anxiety through to genuine heart felt joy. I can remember as a child wanting to laugh when my father was correcting me for mistakes that I had made. I also remember thinking when I was laughing (mainly internally – I didn’t want my father to see my response) “Damn, he has a point there”.
    People also use humour to incite laughter during tense or awkward situations. I was once told that when I tried to make light of a tense situation, when a person was relaying a dark moment in his life, that by making light of the situation I had in fact limited this person’s opportunity to possibly deal fully with the moment he was disussing. However, someone else stated later that they were thankful for my inclusion of humour, because they were able to deal with that situation more easily.
    The point that I wanted to make with this, and it goes back to the response to the joke about the two nuns (which I did find amusing) or about the indian doctor, is that humourous response can be a matter of perception. But if we feel that desire to laugh out loud – or for those more internet literate – LOL, then maybe we should be able to respond with full gusto, hope that others might join in the chorus and not worry if others look embarrassed or put out. Just take a mental note of who those people are and remember not to invite them with you to a Karaoke night.

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