Laughter and Life

As I continue with my MOOC (Massive Open On-line Course) on Rhetorical Composition, the latest assignment was researching and “continuing a conversation” on a worthy topic. After a brief consultation with my sister, I sought out promoting the benefits of laughter, and I found out some interesting information that I wasn’t aware of.

 

Why Do We Want to Laugh?

What is it that makes us laugh? Why do we love laughing so much we might go to extremes to get a good laugh? We each understand innately that laughter makes us feel good inside. Creating a laugh lifts our spirits as well as physically lifting our shoulders, back, face, and other various body parts. After we laugh, we feel more relaxed and confident and safer within the environment, either within a new group of people or with ourselves.[1] When it comes to living and working in the fast-paced, dog-eat-dog nature of the modern world, finding a way to laugh is an integral part to maintaining a positive outlook on life, especially when life may last eighty to ninety years.

According to Holisticonline.com, these things can be said about the act of laughing:

“Laughing is found to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, increase muscle flexion, and boost immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gamma-interferon and B-cells, which produce disease-destroying antibodies. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and produces a general sense of well-being.” [1]

With the beneficial and therapeutic attributes of laughter being what they are, it is no wonder that people strive to find a way to laugh. We make jokes, laugh at funny situations, and try to find humor even when the gods of misfortune find us. Each person uses different kinds of humor to obtain a good laugh, but not all forms are beneficial to the other party. In an article by Piotr Pluta, these four humor styles are listed as 1) Affiliative 2)Self-enhancing 3)Aggressive and 4) Self-defeating. [2]

Two of these are enhancing types of humor, used to help someone feel better, such as a benignly humorous ice-breaker during a conference or making an appropriate joke the first day on the job. An individual needing to cope with unpleasant circumstances might make light of the fact the minister presiding over her father’s funeral just told a story about a completely different person. Others might use humor to avoid burnout on the job, such as therapists and doctors finding a way to laugh despite their incredibly stressful day at work. Studies have demonstrated that “many MHTs [Mental Health Therapists] understand the benefits of maintaining a positive sense of humor in order to increase their longevity in the field.” [6] The same could be said of teachers, lawyers, and many other professionals where caring for the people and the outcomes of their work can cause burnout. Even the lowly Data Processor has to find humor in the daily grind or fall victim to the monotony.

“Humor is a universal language. It’s a contagious emotion and a natural diversion. It brings other people in and breaks down barriers. Best of all it is free and has no known side reactions.” [1]

The other two are detrimental or destructive forms of humor, meant to cause someone anguish at the expense of a laugh. Bullies often attempt to use aggressive humor to disparage or threaten and such types of humor do not aid in group cohesion. These forms may not provide the same benefits as positive forms of humor. After making a crass remark about someone’s choice of attire, you might actually feel worse than you did before you spoke, especially if you bring down that person self-esteem and create a negatively charged environment.

I myself fall into the category of the Self-enhancing humor [2]. Humor is a coping mechanism I use to make sure I don’t take events in my life too seriously, because most of things that happen are not the end of the world. And I’ve been through some pretty rough moments that would make some people crack. I find myself amused at how I end up hitting 10 red lights in a row when I’m trying to be on time to an appointment, or that attempting to get out of a traffic-tied construction zone, I end up in a worse zone. I grumble at first, but then look to humor to bring myself back down to the reality that it is what it is and getting red in the face isn’t going to fix the situation, but it will give me a stress headache. The anecdote of the funeral above—that’s me. My father’s funeral was a logistic catastrophe, with neither the body nor the ashes present, and a presiding minister who did not know my father and mispronounced fifty percent of the names in the family. On a side note, if you laugh at a funeral, you can do so in a way that everyone thinks you’re sobbing hysterically and no one will be offended.

It is being shown that positive types of humor are effective in dealing with patients of a variety of ailments, including but not limited to stress management[3], cancer[4], and diabetes[5]. Laughter reduces stress, prominent in patients with serious illnesses, by loosening muscle tone and tension. Laughter reduces blood pressure and boosts immunity factors. Laughter also produces aerobic reactions, “providing a workout for the diaphragm and increasing the body’s ability to use oxygen.”[1] As medicine continues to evolve, it becomes clearer that chemical and surgical medicine alone won’t cure the body. A positive outlook and a little laughter go a long way in increasing a patient’s rate of recovery. In situations where I have found myself in the hospital, for instance, I appreciate even the mediocre one-liners made by the nurses and social workers, and I am equally appreciative if they laugh at mine. Without these breaks in the tension, the course of any procedure becomes almost unbearable and quite depressing.

While many studies were conducted in the past for show the benefits of laughter, new studies are confirming the fact that laughter really is a great medicine for what ails you. A new study conducted with individuals of 60 and 70 years old reduced their stress levels and improved their short-term memory by laughing for 20 minutes. [9]

Laughter is infectious. Hospitals around the country are incorporating formal and informal laughter therapy programs into their therapeutic regimens. In countries such as India, laughing clubs — in which participants gather in the early morning for the sole purpose of laughing — are becoming as popular as Rotary Clubs in the United States.[1]

Improve Your Life With Laughter

Take a look at these benefits and think about how they appeal to you. [7]

* Laughter stimulates physical healing.
* Laughter enhances our creativity.
* Laughter is rejuvenating and regenerating.
* Laughter is sexy.
* Laughter is good for relationships.
* Laughter opens the heart.
* Laughter gives us a glimpse of freedom from the mind.

Pragito Dove suggests a Laughter Meditation [7] as soon as you wake up in the morning, stretching and stimulating every cell in your body and then laughing. Laugh for no reason at all other than to give yourself the benefits of a good laugh.  Melissa Breyer wrote an article in 2009 entitled “7 Laughter Exercises” which outlines how to boost your health with seven easy activities to finds laughter, including humorous movies and book, comic strips, or joining a laughter club. [8] All of these are great ways to put more laughter into your life and boost your health with the simple yet impressive benefits of a good laugh. I laugh at any joke my children tell me, even if I’ve heard it a dozen times before. Laughing together makes us stronger as a unit and improved their well-being.

Starting the day feeling positive will promote stronger confidence and help you find inner peace. Health and creativity will fall into line. Enjoying life will help you live a longer life. I plan on bringing more humor into my life and the lives of my family so that we can each enjoy less stress and more quality time.

 

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Referenced Materials:

[1]
Holisticonline.com

Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan
Loma Linda University
“Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter”
http://www.holisticonline.com/Humor_Therapy/humor_therapy_benefits.htm

[2]
The Psychology of Humor Blog
Piotr Pluta
“Different people, different ways of using humor – the Humor Styles Questionnaire”
http://www.psychologyofhumor.com/2013/10/24/different-people-different-ways-of-using-humor-the-humor-styles-questionnaire-2/

[3 ]
Holisticonline.com
“Humor Therapy”
http://www.holisticonline.com/stress/stress_humor.htm

[4 ]
Holisticonline.com
“Humor and Cancer”
adapted from the Courage to Laugh (Tarcher/Putnam) by Allen Klien, 1998
http://www.holisticonline.com/Humor_Therapy/humor_therapy_and_cancer.htm

[5 ]
Holisticonline.com
“Humor Therapy”
http://www.holisticonline.com/Remedies/Diabetes/diabetes_humor.htm

[6 ]
Mental health Therapist’ Humor Styles, Trait Mindfulness, and Burnout: A Covariate Analysis
Margo D. Townley, MSW, MA
Dissertation (Preliminary)
Union Institute and University

[7]
“Laugh Your Way to Enlightenment!”
Pragito Dove
http://www.holisticonline.com/Humor_Therapy/humor_therapy_laugh-your-way.htm

[8]
“7 Laughter Exercises”
Melissa Breyer
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/7-laughter-exercises.html
June 11, 2009

[9]
“A New Study Proves That Laughter Really is the Best Medicine”
Huffington Post
Yagana Shaw
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/laughter-and-memory_n_5192086.htmlAugust 22, 2014

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