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How to Harness the Power of Laughter

By Alainnah Robertson December 15, 2023 Lifestyle

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.

  • Herodotus (484–425 BCE) warned that it could be disdainful of others and thus attract the wrath of the gods.
  • Plato (428–347 BCE) didn’t approve of the ancient Greek myth of the gods laughing on Mount Olympus. He saw their conduct as undignified, even if they were having a good time.
  • Thomas Hobbes (1585–1679) considered laughter an expression of superiority over others.
  • Immanuel Kant (1724–1804CE) thought it was a reaction to something incongruous.
  • In The Philosophy of Humour (2013), Paul McDonald offers an in-depth exploration of what philosophers down the millennia have thought about humour. You may find it interesting.

The Healing Power of Laughter

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 Our Sense of Humour

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.

  • Commit to laughing at least once every day, remembering that laughter is an exercise for the soul.
  • Reflect on what truly amuses you and actively seek out sources of it.
  • Begin by amusing yourself; as your laughter resonates, it’s likely to infect those around you.
  • Engage with comedy podcasts, books and films that will expand your comedic horizons.
  • Incorporating humour into your daily routine, such as by having a notice board that you put jokes on, can infuse your surroundings with light-heartedness.

The Art of Telling Jokes

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:

  1. Doctor: I’m sorry, you only have ten to live. Patient: What do you mean? Ten what? Days, weeks, months? Doctor: Nine…
  2. Sarah: My old aunts would tease me at weddings: “Well, Sarah, do you think you will be next?” They stopped when I began doing it to them at funerals.
  3. What’s the most terrifying word in nuclear physics? “Oops!”

As they say, “Laughter is the best medicine.” And a smile and cheery remark go a long way!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you laugh a lot? Have you trained yourself to find humour in simple things? Do you make others laugh?

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Mary Gabrell

When my friend was going through chemo, I’d pick up Haagen-dazs and we’d sit on the couch laughing at Absolutely Fabulous as part of her therapy

Alainnah Robertson

Great to have friend like you! :)

Shelly Little

There is always something to laugh about. Years ago I was in a small town in Portugal I started laughing about something and these 2 men came running around the corner and one said “We knew it was you”. They were customers from where I worked.

Alainnah Robertson

I’ve a friend like that! Her laugh is unmistakable. :)

Gaili | UpperHandsPiano

“Laugh more” is always on my list for New Year’s resolutions. Interesting that the ancient philosophers advised against it. Thanks for this fun post! 🤣

Alainnah Robertson

I’m glad you enjoyed it! :)

The Author

Alainnah is 90 years old, lived on three continents, and has been a lifelong learner, pursuing knowledge and wisdom. She’s always formed groups to study together. She prefers to ask questions and enjoy what others have to say. Alainnah has compiled her group study sessions in a book, Mindfulness Together.

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