Don’t get her going
My close friends know I have a manufacturer’s defect in my brain that causes something unsettling to happen when I laugh hard. I cry. And not just a little — floods of tears stream out of my eyes, which don’t stop until I am both breathing normally again and sufficiently embarrassed by the shocked onlookers. I guess my body and brain use the same trigger for an explosion of emotion, whether it’s laughter or weeping. It’s my little party trick. You have been warned.
Laughing, with or without tears, feels so good. Why is that? And what is a laugh exactly? Are we the only animals that laugh? Why should we laugh a lot? Why do we laugh at things that are not even funny? Okay, will you stop with the questions??! I’ll answer them as best I can, but calm down. And try not to cry.
As it turns out, we are not the only animals that laugh. There is quite a lot of documented gorilla giggling and chimpanzee chortling going on out there. Tickle an orangutan if you don’t believe it, or watch this video if you don’t have any primates on hand. And if laughing is a physiological act that is more like the grunts of an animal than speech, as most scientists believe, it stands to reason that some of what other mammals do is akin to laughter. Laughter seems to be controlled by an “evolutionarily older brain system, unlike speech.” As one form of proof, stroke victims may lose the ability to speak, but still be completely able to laugh and cry. (1)
A good healthy giggle
There is a field of study that I dare you to try to pronounce: psychoneuroimmunology. Scientists in this field with the Dr. Suess-esque name study a combination of psychology, neurological activity and hormones. What they prove over and over is that psychology modifies physiology. Laughter, specifically, has been found to strengthen many health baseline measurements and improve certain health issues including, but not limited to, depression, vascular disease, insomnia, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. (2) One Japanese study that focused on the frequency of laughing analyzed results from more than 20,000 men and women over 65 and published fascinating conclusions. “Individuals who ‘never or almost never laughed’ had a 21 percent higher risk of heart disease than those who laughed daily. Similarly, the prevalence of stroke in those who rarely laugh was 60 percent higher than regular laughers.” (2) Stroke prevention isn’t a very funny topic, but laughing can help you achieve it!
The most prevalent memory I have of my 89 year old, healthy-as-a-horse Nana is her giant cackling laugh while slapping her knees. She did this ALL the time. She had the gift of finding humor in most situations. I believe that gift added many years to her life. Sometimes clichés are clichés for the reason that they are actually true. That’s right folks, you guessed it: laughter is the best medicine. Whether you are a slapstick connoisseur or an aficionado of dry satire, do a little digging and find that thing that will crack you up today. Call your best friend and tell her something embarrasing so that you can crack up together. Open up the laptop and watch a spaniel puppy eating a banana. I dare you to keep a straight face. And if all else fails, have someone in your family tickle you silly today. Then tickle them back. You want them to be healthy, too, right?
A puppy with insane banana eating skills
My personal favorite go to source
A collection of more family friendly clips
- Scott S. The science of laughter. BBC News: Health. Professor Sophie Scott. Sept 11, 2016. Accessed Feb 3, 2017.
- Newman T. Ancient and healthy: The science of laughter. Medicalnewstoday.com. Jan 18, 2017. Accessed Feb 3, 2017.