Laughter, that contagious expression of joy, has the incredible power of brightening our days and uplifting our spirits. Charlie Chaplin said that a day without laughter is a day wasted. Humour probably became an essential part of our ancestors’ culture long before the evolutionary split between humans and apes.
According to some scientists, it can be traced back to the primates of 10 to 16 million years ago. They likely developed it as an evolutionary trait that strengthened relationships between individuals and groups, improving their chances of survival.
Philosophers have not always been so approving of laughter, seeing it as derisive or mocking – which, of course, it can be.
The benefits of laughter are not confined to mere entertainment; they extend to our emotional, physical and social well-being. Modern psychologists see laughter as a tool for tackling depression. Emotionally, laughter serves as a boost, offering a momentary escape from stress and anxiety.
It provides us with a fresh perspective on our troubles, making challenges seem less daunting and anger less intense. Laughter also helps in improving mood, sparking hope for the future and fostering a positive mindset.
On the physical front, the advantages of laughter are equally profound. The Mayo Clinic states that a hearty laugh triggers the release of endorphins, often referred to as “feel-good” hormones. These endorphins contribute to relaxation, stress reduction and even pain alleviation. Moreover, laughter is linked to improved cardiovascular health because, among other things, it enhances the functioning of blood vessels and reduces stress hormones. It also aids in boosting the immune system and burning a few calories, adding a fun twist to weight management.
Socially, laughter plays a pivotal role in shaping our relationships and interactions. Sharing a laugh helps create a more positive and light-hearted environment, fostering a sense of camaraderie. As John Cleese said, “Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter.”
Laughter also keeps us grounded in the present moment, encouraging us to be more attentive and aware. Through laughter, we can bridge gaps, heal resentments, and diffuse conflicts. More than that, it acts as a powerful tool for problem-solving, enhancing teamwork and collective focus.
Cultivating a sense of humour requires conscious effort and a willingness to embrace life’s lighter side. We can start by smiling more often and practising generous laughter. Learning to laugh at ourselves and finding humour in (almost) every situation can transform our perspective. A positive outlook on life, along with a touch of irony and absurdity, adds a layer of lightness to our experiences.
Being spontaneous, expressing genuine feelings and shedding inhibitions are crucial steps in developing a robust sense of humour. It’s essential to let go of defensiveness and embrace constructive criticism with grace. Surrounding ourselves with people who appreciate humour can create a supportive environment for growth. Moreover, incorporating humour into various situations, remembering to play and have fun, and counting our blessings all contribute to our overall good mental health.
To help us to cultivate a healthy appetite for humour, there are several practical steps we can take.
Telling jokes is a fine art that, when mastered, can enhance our sense of humour and – hopefully! – amuse our friends. However, there are certain considerations to keep in mind. Firstly, ensure that the situation is appropriate for humour. Avoid jokes that might hurt someone’s feelings or be offensive. Embracing self-deprecating humour is a safe way to generate laughter without causing harm.
If a joke falls flat, it’s best to let it fade away naturally rather than attempting to explain it. Timing is key, and practising our delivery can refine our comedic skills. Lastly, remember to speak slowly; this lets your audience catch every humorous detail.
If you’re not in the habit of telling jokes but want to be, here are a few simple ones to get you started:
As they say, “Laughter is the best medicine.” And a smile and cheery remark go a long way!
Do you laugh a lot? Have you trained yourself to find humour in simple things? Do you make others laugh?
Tags Healthy Aging