The Science Of Laughter
We have another intresting and new guest blogger here at StopStressingNow.Com. His name is James Masica, MA, LPCC. James is an organizational development consultant and licensed therapist. He became a Certified Laughter Leader and Laughter Yoga instructor three years ago when he became convinced of the transformative power of laughter for individuals and organizations. He leads Laughter Workshops for businesses and organizations of all sizes and types and maintains a private therapy pratice based on health psychology. He has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico because he is addicted to sunshine.
It’s with much joy and laughter that I proudly introduce to you our newest guest blogger,
Mr. James Masica.
The folk wisdom is that “laughter is the best medicine.” Medical science is increasingly able to demonstrate the truth of that saying, and it is not restricted to individual health. Laughter is great medicine for our social relationships too.
In fact, this human urge to connect through laughter is so strong that the number one thing people say they want in a romantic partner is “somebody that makes me laugh.” That’s right: when it comes to our most fundamental and important intimate relationship—the one we hope will last until we die–above all we want somebody we can share laughter with.
Here’s a perspective on laughter that will probably be new to you: laughter and humor are two different things. Laughter, humor, comedy, jokes—they all kind of seem like the same thing, don’t they? But they’re not. Laughter is just a physical act. It’s pushing the air out from our lungs and making that familiar ha-ha-ha sound. You can think of it as a form of exercise, something you can voluntarily do anytime you want, like going for a walk or touching your toes.
Comedy or humor, on the other hand, is mental. We’ve all had the experience of somebody telling us a joke they thought was just great. But when we hear it we don’t think it’s funny, so we don’t laugh. Drawing a distinction between laughter and humor actually gives us a very powerful tool, because it puts laughter under our voluntary control. We’re not dependant on anything from the outside to “make” us laugh. We don’t have to “think” anything is funny. We can just laugh—yep, for no reason, just because it’s good to be alive.
The odd thing is, our body and our mind reacts to laughter the same way regardless of the cause.
Regardless of if it’s for no reason or if it’s in response to our favorite comedian, laughter releases a whole range of beneficial chemicals into our bloodstream. Our blood pressure goes way down, our immune system goes way up, we breath deeper and get more oxygen to the brain. Endorphins—the body’s natural “feel good” mood elevator—kick in for a natural high. Seratonin levels get optimized—that’s what antidepressant try to do—but no side effects. And all for free.
Have you ever noticed how laugher is contagious? How when people get in the laughter groove it’s so easy to have even more laughter? That’s because Mother Nature has wired us up to respond to each other’s emotions. Feelings are contagious. We will spontaneously respond to the laughter of others by laughing ourselves—nothing even needs to be funny. Try it for yourself next time you’re in a group—just laugh, and notice how others will laugh too. It’s sort of like an echo.
Sharing laughter with another person is among the most pleasurable of human experiences. When people laugh together, they feel more trusting and safer. We feel more connected to people we laugh with, and it makes a relationship of any type stronger and more resilient. From casual friendships at work to the deepest connection with our soul mate, laughter can contribute to building and keeping the best possible relationships.
What it takes to bring out laughter isn’t trying to “be funny”. What it takes is a certain point of view, an attitude towards the world and those around you. Laughter research has revealed that there are six simple habits that grow the “laughter attitude.” These six habits form the practices of “Goodhearted Living”—a way of being in the world that’s joyful and satisfying, and spreads from person to person like wildfire.
By adding them to your life, you will find that you’ve created a sort of fertile garden in which more laughter can sprout. They lead to a more relaxed, appreciative stance towards life. We spontaneously share these good feelings with all the people in our lives.
The six habits of Good Hearted Living are:
- Giving compliments—because giving a compliment is an acknowledgement to ourselves that something is right with the world. It’s an antidote to the negativity and pessimism around us.
- Being flexible—we know the only constant is change, yet we so easily fall into the rut of resisting or complaining about what’s different or new. Do something different—even a little thing—just to flexible and avoid “hardening of the attitudes”.
- Express gratitude—the big secret is that gratitude actually creates joy. If you want to be happy, be grateful. There’s always some point of view from which gratitude is the right response.
- Be kind—Everybody is fighting some kind of secret battle inside or dealing with some problem we’re unaware of. Cut people some slack. It feels really good to be generous in spirit.
- Practice forgiveness—Be selfish and forgive others. Huh? Yes, forgiveness is for ourselves—because holding a grudge is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die.
- Chocolate! Maybe real chocolate (it’s full of endorphins and tastes good too), but more importantly, symbolic chocolate. Treat yourself well. Take time to recharge your batteries and refresh yourself. It’s important to take time off, to avoid burnout, and to do whatever keeps you feeling fresh and enthusiastic about life.
Sometimes one or two of these habits will jump out at you. Notice which one interests you the most. It could be a wake-up call for what needs extra attention in your life.
All around the globe, there are Laughter Clubs and Laughter Yoga sessions, where people get together and laugh. Look for one near you.
Give up the idea that you need something to “make” you laugh. Abraham Lincoln said “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Put one or more of the Habits of Good Hearted Living into practice, and see if it doesn’t make more space for laughter in your life.
For more information on James, please visit: http://www.masicalaughter.com