Let me first of all allay fears that I am going to spring samples of failed humor or attempt to establish my comic genius by taking advantage of indulgent readership. Believe me, nothing of the sort is intended! I admire all those brilliant men and women – writers, actors, stand-up comedians and evCredit: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photosen unsung conversationalists – who display the unique talent to provoke uncontrollable fits of laughter as though a strong whiff of laughing gas had engulfed you. I have no pretensions of reaching those rarefied levels that calls for true genius and meant only for the likes of James Thurber, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Charles Chaplin and Groucho Marx. There are many others and this list is only illustrative – not exhaustive.
The provocation for this piece is very simple. There was a recent report about a survey done across UK to find out what people consider to be the ten most important contributors to make their life pleasurable. Number one on the list, picked by twenty-two percent of those surveyed, was “laughter”. I thought it was good enough reason for us to look at laughter seriously. Not that there is any debate about laughter – do we hear anybody say anything negative about it? Of course not, for the simple reason that all of us know from experience that a hearty laugh always leaves us feeling good. Therefore laughter is extolled and a sense of humor considered one of the strong elements of a personality. “Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone,” goes the old saying.
Since I have no special talent to leave you in splits, the title only promises something very modest - to look at the reasons why laughter is good for us or put differently, some serious reasons to have a hearty laugh.
Why laughter is good for us
- It indirectly boosts the immune system by reducing the levels of stress hormones like epinephrine and dopamine. This in turn has a positive effect on immunity because immunity drops when you are under stress.
- It directly activates the immune system as can be observed from an increase in the number of killer cells, T lymphocytes, antibodies IgA and IgB and gamma interferon which prompts the immune system to turn on. As a result, the body is better prepared to handle diseases and cancerous cells.
- Laughter is a great relaxant because when you laugh, muscles of the face, belly, abdomen, legs, back, respiratory tract and diaphragm, go through a workout and all other muscles can relax. After the laughter, the muscles that were involved in laughter can relax. Naturally a laughter session leaves you feeling completely relaxed.
- Laughter also releases endorphins into the body. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers and functions like an opiate to relieve us of pain. But without side effects!
- Laughter is good for the heart because it expands the endothelium that lines the blood vessels and thereby increases and improves the blood circulation thus reducing the burden on the heart.
Other attractive features
- Laughter is free and you can indulge without paying for it.
- It is infectious and therefore you will be doing some social good as you pass it on in the group.
- Laughter has no known side effects.
- Laughter has many other spin-off benefits like improving relationships and defusing conflicts as well as improving bonding and teamwork within groups.
The road ahead
If you are the type who enjoys a hearty laugh and seeks such opportunities, then you can be happy that you are doing yourself a world of good.
If you are not, then you have a problem that needs to be addressed. Fortunately it is not all that difficult. It may just be that you have never realized the value of laughter. Now that you know, give in. Don’t hold back for fear you will look awkward.
Now if you do have a real problem in being light-hearted and tend to carry the burden of the world on your shoulders, and take everything seriously, then it is high time you realize that you are paying too high a price for the perceived benefits of your stance. Take a break and have a hearty laugh, if necessary in the safe confines of the home or a picnic with friends or a school reunion get-together.
In 1995, an Indian, Dr. Madan Katara realized the benefits of laughter and started a Laughter Club in Mumbai with five people. They met in a park in a group and indulged in self-triggered laughter. The benefits brought in more and more members and today it has expanded into a huge movement with 6000 clubs in 60 countries. You can check out at the Laughter Yoga International website (http://www.laughteryoga.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=44&Itemid=1148 ) whether there is a laughter club in your city. If there is one, why not look it up?
And laugh your way to good health!
Credit (Photograph) :
Laughter the best medicine Copyright (c) <a href='http://www.123rf.com'>123RF Stock Photos</a>