“Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world. It’s more than just a matter of laughing. If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.” ~ Dr. Seuss
This science of mirth is no laughing matter, but it is wonderfully amusing. We’ve studied laughter, it is its own science called gelotology. Laughter helps us socially, mentally and physically. It has evolved for good reason. Here’s why:
Laughter as a Survival Instinct
“It’s time to take humor seriously, and seriousness humorously.”
The philosopher John Morreall believes that people first laughed as a sign of relief after they were exposed to danger and then shared a collective sigh as that danger passed. Some researchers are trying to figure out if primates did their own form of stand-up. This subject has been scrutinized for centuries, with people trying to figure out just what makes something funny, and how the tickled fancy supports human beings in their evolutionary process. Many say it is an instinctual survival tool, and not the cursory response to a razor sharp wit. Surely, if children can deliver peels of laughter after hearing a soldier in worn-torn Afghanistan pass gas, it must serve some greater purpose.
“I wanna live. I don’t wanna die. That’s the whole meaning of life: not dying! I figured that shit out by myself in the third grade. ~ George Carlin, comedian
“A sense of humor – is a needed armor. Joy in one’s heart and some laughter on one’s lips is a sign that a person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.” ~ Hugh Sidey, journalist
Laughter as a Community Builder
Laughter is the way we bond with one another. Laughter is contagious, and so are the bonds that are formed among people who laugh. We usually feel closer to those we’ve shared a laugh or two with. It doesn’t even need to be expressed verbally. Charlie Chaplin made a whole career out of making people laugh with just his expressions. Surely the audiences who watched his black and white films felt closer to one another.
“I’ve always though that a big laugh is a really loud noise from the soul saying, ain’t that the truth!” ~Quincy Jones, musician
Laughter Cures the Sick
When we feel a heart-felt chuckle, it can cure a panoply of ills. Laughter lowers cortisol levels (which are linked to all sorts of stress-related diseases including heart disease and high blood pressure.) Getting the giggles also increases the antibodies in your blood, which boosts the immune system so we can more easily evade bacteria, viruses and parasites.
In a recent study, laughter was found to boost the immune system by as much as 40 percent! In the study women watched funny films in one group and dull boring films in another. When the films were completed, researchers took samples of the women’s killer cells, our natural disease fighting cells, and mixed them with cancer cells to see what would happen. The women who had laughed out loud in the films had much healthier immune systems, capable of even destroying cancer cells, than the women who had watched some boring tourism films. Now that’s a powerful way to keep people from being sick without spending trillions in health care costs. Instead of pumping violence and anger into our media channels, how about a little more hilarity?
Laughter also makes us more physically beautiful as it brings increased blood flow to the skin through increased aerobic activity in the lungs and heart. Laughter even lessens depression.
“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.” ~ Audrey Hepburn, actress
Laughter Keeps us Going
Maybe the ridiculous or the nonsensical seem to have no place, with the endless photographs being circulated on Pinterest and Youtube of kittens and bonobo monkeys, or the late night comedians keeping our insomniac brains in a state of elevated hilarity, or the best friend who tells us a good joke when we are feeling a little down, but laughter keeps us going. It supports our mental and physical health and allows this mundane and chaotic world to keep turning.
“If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.” ~Robert Frost, author
About the Author
Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.
Credits: Christina Sarich, Staff Writer, Waking Times.