We are living in difficult times. There is the war in Ukraine, two years of coronavirus, domestic political turmoil, rising crime, and changes in the economy. Challenging times like these create a lot of anxiety, worry, and stress. However, as individuals, there is little we can do to solve these problems. One psychologically beneficial coping mechanism is to laugh. Laughter reduces a lot of stress and worry.
When I was a college student many years ago, I wrote a term paper about the Pygmies of the Congo in Africa. While researching the paper, I came across one observation of their way of life that caused me to laugh. The anthropologist who wrote his observations while living with these people was that when something struck them as funny, they would begin laughing until the laughter became so side-splitting that they rolled on the ground. At the same time, tears came rolling down their faces.
When I was a child, I remember that I loved to see Jerry Lewis movies. I would laugh so hard and loud that my laughter spread through the isles of the theater until everyone was laughing at me laughing.
I remember a psychology class I took in college where the professor used a lot of humor in his lectures. One day, he said something that made all of us laugh. I don’t know if it was his joke, something about my mood that morning, or the atmosphere in the classroom, but I couldn’t stop laughing even after the others had. That caused the other students to resume laughing after they had stopped. For fear of being reprimanded, I looked up and was relieved to see the professor laughing along with all the rest of us. Our laughter was purely spontaneous and left me warm feelings about the class and professor that I still remember after these decades.
Whether laughter is medicine is unclear. Studies show that laughter is the best medicine for stress, worry, and many other problems. Psychologist Robert Provine, Ph.D., is the foremost expert on laughter. He states that:
“Laughing more could make you healthier, but we don’t know,” he says. “I certainly wouldn’t want people to laugh more just to avoid dying — because eventually, they’ll be disappointed.”
Of course, that is a joke. Most laughter is not a result of a joke but is a laughable part of being with people. Research on relationships is measurable by the amount of laughter. Problems and conflicts cause people to divorce or end relationships. Yet, one of the most apparent ingredients of any happy relationship is laughter. Laughter may be a symptom of how well a couple is doing. Laughter binds people together. During the beginning stage of a romance, people frequently laugh. It is a time of fun, warmth, joyfulness, and spontaneity. Couples need to laugh a lot more.
Laughing is also very social. It brings people together. It brings people together because it’s contagious. When you hear someone laugh, you also start to laugh. Do you remember how you also yawn when you see someone yawn?
How might a couple reintroduce laughter into their relationship? According to Provine, the most primitive form of stimulating laughter is tickling. Not only does tickling cause laughter, but it also causes the person getting tickled to turn around and start tickling. In addition to couples engaging in tickling and laughing, we love to tickle babies and children because it’s fun to see and hear them laugh and giggle.
It’s always fun to get together with people who also spontaneously laugh. Once the laughter begins, everything that happens is funny.
Do you allow laughter into your life? Just remember, we don’t laugh to solve problems. We don’t laugh to improve our health. We laugh because we do, and it feels great. So, let’s all get together and laugh.
Contact Dr. Schwartz for a consulation and/or psychotherapy