“Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly”…G.K. Chesterton
The enigma of humor and why we laugh has been studied for many years – and still there is no single successful theory or explanation for this phenomenon – but for me the easiest one to understand is that “something tickles my funny bone”! Other explanations are too scientific and cumbersome.
People laugh in different ways. Some of my friends laugh with a submerged “hihi”, others manage a cultured “hahaha” and for still others – including myself – it overflows into a golden guttural guffaw like the proverbial “drainpipe”.
Laughter is a three-legged chair: firstly there is grasping the “humorous” aspect, which then develops – in quick succession – into a mental-emotional response followed by the act of physical laughter itself, bestowing on us a number of proven physical benefits including that it:
- Busts stress by instantly increasing the natural chemicals that reduce the effect of stress.
- Boosts our immune system, reduces baseline blood pressure and with it the risk of possible stroke.
- Re-energizes us by flooding our lungs and body with air and oxygen.
- Kills pain naturally. Research shows that people withstand more pain when viewing humorous films.
Laughter is a cultural mechanism that has evolved over time so that members of the same species – and possibly inter-species – can get along. It is a great equalizer inasmuch as that popes and presidents, princes and paupers all laugh. There are those who say that animals can find things humorous and laugh or at least grin. Try frowning then smiling successively at a dog and notice the reaction. Mine had a droopy look followed by a wagging tail.
From a social perspective laughter has a large impact on our lives. It releases tension, builds rapport amongst people, helps us bond with others, gives us a shared purpose, and makes “light of heavy work”.
Research shows that children laugh on average between 350 and 400 times a day. Most adults, however, will laugh on average only about 15 times a day – some less. This is one aspect where adults can learn from children – and consider becoming childlike.
Laughter distracts us from stressful moments and almost always improves our mood. It helps us see and appreciate the mental aspect of life and lets us put our worries “in their place”.
If you make a mistake be sure to understand and accept the seriousness of it. Put it in perspective and learn from it. Then, nothing should stop you from having a giggle or even a laugh at your own expense – possibly in your head if it is safer – because it takes the stress and sting out of the mistake.
I established “A Joke a Week” club with a few friends and within two years I had over 800 jokes, quotes and funny stories. I constantly add to this by collecting humorous DVD’s – and together they make a timely and welcome break from reality.
Laughter helps us improve our self-esteem and well-being. If someone makes an unpleasant remark and we can laugh it off, it clearly establishes our maturity.
Laughing at ourselves increases our optimism and may even give us hope in the face of adversity. Once we accept a bad situation, we are in command of it and it can only get better.
Court Jesters were the only ones who were allowed to poke fun around and at Kings and Queens. They would oftentimes give stingingly sane advice to their Mad Monarchs – and get away with it where others would be put to the sword. At other times court jesters would meet the same fate – underlining the fact that it was a privileged but perilous position to occupy. I can attest to that, having been labeled “court jester” by a boss due to my propensity to poke fun of and around colleagues. In my resignation speech I proposed a toast to my boss BUT concluded it with “Long Live The Jester” – something he still remembered when – through an unexpected confluence of circumstance – he became my boss again many years later! Since I have matured somewhat by then we parted as better friends with “Long Live The Boss” the second time around when I opted out of mainstream society to go back-packing for 3 years.
Life presents us with many challenges, some of which we cannot control. To help you manage those, remember The Serenity Prayer written many years ago by Reinhold Niebuhr: “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
- Change. Grow wise.
The enjoyment of spiritual laughter is the welcome change that we experience in going from an ordeal to redemption – from crisis to salvation. For those who start their day with a prayer, it may do well to also ask for the Lightness of Laughter during the course of the day.
- People laugh in different ways for different reasons.
- Children laughs on average 20 times more than adults every day.
- Laughter lets you put your “worries in its place”,
- Laughter improves your self-esteem and well-being.
- Court jesters could poke fun at kings and queens whilst carefully giving sane advice.
- “Spiritual laughter” is what we experience going from personal crisis to salvation.
- Laugh in your own way – being it submerged, cultured or like a “drainpipe”.
- Be childlike in laughter – they laugh 20 times more than adults.
- Put your worries “in their place” by seeing them in the right perspective.
- Laugh at yourself. Do not take yourself too seriously – life is too short.
- Laugh with people – not at them.
- Put a “Laugh-a-Day” on your To-Do List. Ask for the “Lightness of Laughter”.
(“PERSPECTIVES” are excerpts from my forthcoming book of the same name, to be published by Partridge Publications in early 2015).