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.