They say that the average 4-year-old laughs 300 times a day; the average 40 year old? Only 4 times. Recently, I decided to make more time for laughter. And here’s what came of it.
The last couple months had been particularly stressful for me. I’ve been working on a project that deals with a topic that is rather unpleasant. Without disclosing too much, let’s just say that it a project involving legal issues and public relations.
There are certain tasks that don’t lend themselves to much humour. And this is one of them. The problem is that if you engross yourself in such tasks for too long of a period, you can start feeling lousy.
That’s why I decided to take a laughter break and call one of my good friends. Everyone ought to have one of those friends who can make you laugh no matter what is happening around you. For me, this friend is Ana. We spent an hour talking nonsense and laughing on the phone. Not just mild laughter, but the kind where you have trouble breathing and your eyes get wattery.
I felt so much better after the call. And since that day, I’ve been trying to fit in more moments of laughter.
The Crazy Thing About Laughter
Here’s what’s crazy about laughter. Most of the sounds we make, we have a fair amount of control over. But when it comes to laughter — and I mean hearty laughter — a lot of it is uncontrollable. Sometimes, it will make us unable to speak or even breathe. According to Neuroscientist Sophie Scott, who studies laughter, “There’s something unbelievably powerful about the way laughter can overwhelm our motor system.”
Making such involuntary sounds can make us vulnerable, especially from a survival point of view. But the fact that we (and many other animals) laugh should make us wonder why it’s necessary and important.
Some Benefits from Laughter
From the University of Melbourne blog article, we see that:
- Laughter = Drug. Laughing triggers the release of endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine (but much, much safer!). Endorphins also reduce your perception of pain.
- Laughter = Exercise. Your diaphragm, abdominal muscles, lungs and face muscles are activated. This causes an exercise response by increasing our heart rate, lowering our blood pressure and increasing the levels of oxygen in our blood. No gym membership required!
- Laughter = Belonging. According to Scott, “We’re primed to laugh when we are with other people more than if we’re on our own.” When we laugh in a group, we get a sense of community, acceptance, and bonding. Such feelings are great for our mental well-being, as it reaffirms the fact that we are loved.
I would add to this list that laughter is also free and fun. When we laugh, we are more “in the moment”. Our enjoyment and sense of satisfaction increases. We see more good in the world and in other people. It enlivens us, engages us, and even makes us more attractive. And it doesn’t cost a thing!
So are you laughing enough? What are some ways you can raise your laughter quota?