But we should laugh more
Primates and rats laugh too.
I confess my headline was a red herring — please forgive me.
I’ll stick with the human story.
“It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.” — Dr Wayne Dyer (1940–2015)
Laughter is a free, kick ass therapy to lift your mood and we don’t do enough. As kids we laughed on average 400 times a day — now as adults we manage around 15!
Do you notice at a party how we gravitate to a raconteur who can fire off jokes one after the other and leave you (figuratively) rolling on the floor, abdominal muscles aching and tears streaming down your face?
Or someone giggles. You snicker and snort and before long you’re guffawing along with them, even though you don’t have the faintest idea what’s so funny?
Why is that?
At an unconscious level we know promotes our health and well-being.
(What I remember best of my seven-week stay at a psychiatric clinic in 2000 is the camaraderie and laughter with fellow patients.)
We release the endorphin neuro-hemical when we laugh — and when we cry. Endorphins are nature’s morphine — they ease emotional and physical pain.
Sometimes I don’t want to cry, so a good comedy show works wonders as laughter has the same salutary effect.
Laughter reduces those pesky stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
A false smile is equally soothing. First, smiling uses less facial muscles than frowning — minimal effort required — and the act of carrying a silly grin on your face releases endorphins.
Though more challenging, a false chortle can cheat the stress too.
Our infection-fighting antibodies increase when we laugh. Your T-cells love a tickle and do better.
Who needs to go to the gym when you can do a workout with laughter? Your diaphragm, abdominal muscles, shoulders and heart take part as you crack up and cackle.
In “Anatomy of an Illness (As Perceived by the Patient)”, published in 1979, Norman Cousins wrote how laughter helped him to recover from ankylosing spondylitis when diagnosed in 1964. He could not move and in constant pain but didn’t lose his sense of humor.
“I credit my recovery to a prescription of Candid Camera episodes, Marx Brothers movies and funny stories read by nurses. Within 10 minutes of laughter, I could procure two hours of pain-free sleep.”
Another innovator that springs to mind is Dr Hunter (Patch) Adams, a brilliant portrayal by the late and still mourned Robin Williams in the 1998 movie “Patch Adams.”
I never tire of watching it — four times and counting!
Dr Madan Kataria, an Indian family physician created Laughter Yoga in 1995.
Steve Wilson, a psychologist, brought the concept of Laughter Clubs to the USA in the late 1990's and is the founder of World Laughter Tour.
The list of pioneers is endless.
What makes me smile, is that laughter therapy has become a mainstream contributor to our health and wellness.
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”–Book of Proverbs
Laughter may not be the best, yet is a magnificent, medicine.