In this blog we explore how laughter is perceived in different departments. The intention is to ponder laughter being possibly the best medicine and to inspire you to include laughter in your daily life. In case, laughter is already your bestie, this blog is a celebration of your relationship with this primal sound. Throughout the blog, I weave some personal stories about the gifts I received over the years from laughter.
Migraine introduced me to the magical power of laughter. I had numerous migraines in my 20s and 30s. One time, I had a migraine for five days in a row. Nothing helped including the medication prescribed by a neurologist. A huge wave of laughter came out of nowhere on the fifth day. It took me off guard. Laughter shook me in all the right way. Laughter did not make the migraine vanish, however, laughter helped me shift my focus. I was no longer drowning in my self-pity. I was able to detach from the pain. Laughter created space between me and the migraine. From then on, my studio, my website at the time, and all my activities were named TheHouseOfLaughter.
What is laughter?
According to Wikipedia laughter is an agreeable corporeal response made of rhythmic audible contractions of the diaphragm and various parts of the respiratory system. The stimuli might be internal or external. They arise from various activities, being tickled or from funny stories or thoughts. Laughter expresses positive emotional states: joy, bliss, mirth, happiness or relief. Laughter can also be triggered by contrary emotional states: embarrassment, surprise, confusion, nervousness.
Laughter is a part of human behavior managed by the brain. Its function assists human beings in clarifying their intentions when interacting socially providing an emotional context to conversations. Laughter indicates we are part of a group, denoting acceptance and positive bonding with each other. Laughter is often contagious. There is a 6:47-min video called Boddhisatva in Metro from early 2010. The subway is full of people. The ambiance is serious. People are not happy-looking. At the next station enters a man smiling. He starts to laugh silently and let laughter get louder. Soon thereafter, many people catch on and laugh with him. Some are laughing to tears. (See the link in the footnotes, Bodhisattva in Metro). Imaging starting your day laughing your way to work.
☞ LAUGHTER IS UNIVERSAL ☜
Laughter researcher Robert Provine said: "Laughter is a mechanism everyone has; laughter is part of the universal human vocabulary. There are thousands of languages, hundreds of thousands of dialects, but everyone speaks laughter in pretty much the same way." Babies laugh before they ever speak.”
☞ LAUGHTER IS PRIMITIVE ☜
Provine mentions that "Laughter is primitive, an unconscious vocalization.””
☞ LAUGHTER IN EXTREME CASES ☜
Aphonogelia is a very rare neurological condition whereby the sufferer is unable to laugh out loud. PseudoBulbar Affect (PBA) is a condition characterized by episodes of sudden uncontrollable and inappropriate laughing or crying.
☞ LAUGHTER IS ANCIENT AND FRESH ☜
Is laughter the best medicine that is good for you?
I personally believe laughter is a chemistry changer. I suffered from severe and ongoing dental issues between 2009 - 2015. The pain led me to explore a wide variety of meditation techniques. For example, the happy monk, Matthieu Ricard, suggests to relax and melt into the pain.
One night, the pain was so unbearable. In desperation, I took some Tylenol, which did not change the intensity of the pain. I prayed. I breathed deeply. I meditated. I turned to Matthieu Richard’s powerful technique. Everything I turned to had no power over the pain. The pain was relentless. From 2009 - 2011, I lived in a three-story brownstone with my friend Sam. I remember going downstairs at 2 AM. Sam was up reading in the living room. We created imaginary scenarios that were hilarious. For two hours, I laughed to tears. Laughter changed my chemistry. The pain was gone. I was able to finally fall asleep with a smile on my face.
I believe and know to be true that without laughter, I am certain I would not be here to share the tale with you. Thanks to laughter, I did not completely loose my mind. Laughter saved me from collapsing into total despair.
Whether laughter is the best medicine or not, laughter has only good side-effects. Therefore, laughter is absolutely good for you.
☞ LAUGHTER HEALS ☜
Laughter in Science
When you google the science of laughter, there are about 425 millions results. When you google laughter in science, there are about 870 millions results. There are numerous scientific reports from all-over the world that prove laughter to be a good and effective medicine. Dr Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, whose face became very familiar to me during the pandemic is a great believer in laughter and smiling. In his podcast, Chasing Life, he interviews Tig Notaro, Emmy- and Grammy-nominated comedian, on the Healing Power of Laughter. Tig Notaro shared that laughter helped her and her family through lockdown. Dr. Gupta also shares that laughter is an important vitamin to his successful relationship with his wife.
Laughter in Your Body
When you laugh, you are using many muscles. Some say about 30 muscles. Laughter works and massages the muscles of the jaws, diaphragm, abdomen, respiratory tract, and back. Researchers report that laughing 100 times is equal to ten minutes on the rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike. Laughter is an enjoyable and beneficial workout.
Laughter Benefits for Our Body
I will share the benefits from the help guide, “Laughter is the best medicine.”
THE PHYSICAL BENEFITS
Laughter has the power to relax the whole body. When you laugh from your core, the physical tension and stress loosen their tight grip. Laughter switches off the fight-or-flight response.
Laughter strengthens the immune system. Laughter defeats stress hormones. Laughter stimulates immune cells and antibodies. The body becomes more disease resistant.
Laughter makes you feel-good and generates well-being by releasing endorphins, so is laughter the best medicine?
Laughter takes loving care of the heart. Laughter strengthens the blood vessels and makes sure the blood flows with greater ease. The risk of a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems are greatly decreased.
Yes, laughter does burn calories. Laughter can burn up to 40 calories when you laugh for 10 to 15 minutes.
Laughter transmute anger energy. Laughing with someone with whom you are angry can be deeply transformative and set you free. When we laugh, our problems can be seen from a different angle and the grudges we hold loose their sharpness.
A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor live longer than those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.
THE MENTAL BENEFITS
Laughter weakens the gripping grasp distressing emotions have over you. You can only feel one emotion at a time. Give the spotlight to laughter.
Laughter frees you from stress by creating space for relaxation to come in. When we can relax, energy to stay focus and be available for creative solutions and smooth productivity.
Laughter creates space between you and the situation you find yourself in. You can shift from having your nose smeared in it to seeing it from a more clarifying objective distance.
Laughter creates bonding and closeness with yourself and others. Your mental and emotional healths greatly benefit.
Besides the physical nightmares of a dental issue and migraines, depression and anxiety used to be regular visitors in my inner castle. At some point, I was prescribed medication which made me more sick. I opted for yoga, meditation and laughter instead. Laughter helps me lighten up and align with playfulness.
FAKE VERSUS REAL LAUGHTER
You can tell when someone is fake-laughing from their eyes not squinting. Same thing with a fake smile. If you wish to not have laughing and smiling wrinkles around the eyes, choose fake laughter. The benefits will be similar. Science shows, the brain can’t tell the difference between real and fake laughter.
☞ LAUGHTER IS FREE, ALWAYS READY WHEN YOU ARE ☜
What if you are unable to laugh?
What if my friend Sam was sleeping, and I had been by myself? Would I have fake laughed? Would I have been relieved?
The company of dear ones and laughing together is powerfully healing and unsurpassable.
However, we are not always with loved ones, like in pandemic times, and not always inspired to laugh, especially when life falls apart.
What to do in such situations?
In the 90’s, I had a friend who told stories that cracked me up. When alone, I’d have his stories on endless replay and laughed by myself a real guttural belly laughter. I used to paint everyday for at least one hour no matter how full my schedule was. I would paint and laugh recalling my friend’s stories. Those artworks were blessed with laughter.
What if our memory does not recall any funny story or those stories are no longer funny. What to do? Or we are in the middle of the night, woken up by a bad dream or anxiety. What to do?
I pray. I resort to the breath. Often I go directly to silent laughter. It does take the edge of what I am going through. It turns off the fight-or-flight reaction. If I wait for something to make me laugh, I am at the mercy of externals and might have to wait too long.
Why not take matters in our hands and contribute to our well-being with laughter. It is free and available 24/7, all year-long. Laughter, like true love, is unconditional and always ready to laugh with each one of us.
☞ LAUGHTER LIGHTENS UP ☜
Laughter in Yoga & Meditation
There is laughter yoga, a form of yoga brought forth by Dr. Madan Kataria in India, 26 years ago. He wrote a book called Laughter Yoga. I studied with him during lockdown. It was wonderful to laugh on Zoom with over 100 people from all over the world, laughing together at the same time. He recommends you to laugh 10 - 15 minutes per day to activate the powers of laughter in you.
☞ SILENCE AFTER LAUGHTER ☜
I love the silence that comes after a laughing moment. It contributes for a powerful meditation.
☞ LAUGHTER DISTRACTS THE DISTRACTOR ☜
In my yoga classes, we hold postures and use laughing sounds. It charms the mind and allows us to hold the pose longer with a smile and a feel-good sensation. Everyone says that laughter makes them feel good, really good. It gets us out of our head, into the body. For me, laughter massages my organs and prevents the love handle to take over like unwanted weeds.
☞ DON'T LET THE INNER/OUTER CRITIC STOP YOU FROM LAUGHING ☜
The inner critic can also intervene by veto-ing the side of you that is ready to laugh for no reason. Don’t let it. Keep on laughing. The benefits will astound you. The many connections, connection with yourself, connection with your creativity and connection with your community will flourish, strengthen and deepen. Laughter takes you to a spacious open space within, where your view of yourself and the world will shift into a state of relaxation, positivity, joy and ultimately freedom
☞ LAUGHTER THE RAIDER ☜
I believe and know that laughter can help us ride any hardship.
Being a self-employed artist and yoga/meditation teacher that has moved many times, changing locations, cities and countries, a sense of belonging and finances can be challenged. Laughter helps me ride the uncertainties with humor. Laughter can be a raider that takes us to the inner treasures of our inner Self.
Laughter reveals our capacities to be creative heroines and heroes.
For me, laughter has the power to save me from many physical, mental and emotional ailments. Laughter loosens up.
Whether we are self-employed, employed, unemployed, life gives each one of us a mixed bag of pleasantries and difficulties. Why not welcome the various life offerings as they arrive with open arms and laughter. The choice is ours to make and take.
☞ LAUGHTER CHALLENGES ☜
It is not always easy to laugh and it takes a willingness to shift and be free. Laughter also challenges artists.
Laughter in Art
Very few painters in the West were able to catch laughter in a most genuine way. Laughter is like fire. It is challenging to depict. Fire and laughter are dancers that shapeshift. Franz Hals and Rembrandt are part of those few artists I know that were able to celebrate the freshness of laughter by not hiding the marks of the brushes. There is an inspiring video by Friso Lammertse, Curator of 17th-century Dutch Painting of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam about the Art of Laughing (see YouTube link below).
☞ LAUGHTER IS ECOLOGICAL ☜
Laughter for Your Environment
When we laugh, we are gifting the trees of more carbon dioxide. The more we laugh, the more we exhale. The more we exhale, the more carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere. Our lengthened exhale not only relaxes us more, it benefits the trees. In return, the trees give us more oxygen.
☞ LAUGHTER MENDS ☜
Is it possible that laughter has the power to save us and the world?
Something for us to meditate upon and possibly consider. Can you imagine getting together with your “enemy”, laughing NOT at them, laughing WITH them. We are all connected via the air we breathe and the sounds we make when laughing. Just imagine for one moment you are in a room with your enemy, someone you know personally or someone you know of, you are laughing together.
Laughter in Your Life
What does laughter mean to you?
Some of the sources from my research