Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1197, (15-21 May 2014)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1197, (15-21 May 2014)

Ahram Weekly

He who laughs, lasts

“If you tickle us, do we not laugh?” queried Shylock, the Jew, in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice!  Indeed we do! We all do, and we all should, even without a tickle. Even the blind, deaf and dumb laugh. Scientists still do not know what happens to the brain when we laugh, since there are no laugh centres in the brain. Yet humour may well be the key to happiness.

Psychologist Robert Provine, who has spent the last 10 years studying laughter, calls it the universal human vocabulary: “It is a genetic instinct, a primitive, unconscious vocalisation”. Laughter is the one language we all speak, we all understand, and we all do it pretty much the same way. Its syllables are simple and clear, Ha Ha Ha, Ho Ho Ho, or Hee Hee Hee! It is so common, such a fundamental part of life, we forget how important it is.

Neuro-scientists have focused on the study of laughter for the past decade, and have begun unraveling the laughter mood connection.

Laughter is a full-cortex experience, considering its wide-ranging effect on us, psychologically and physiologically.

It is impossible to feel stressed, angry, anxious, or depressed when you laugh. Laughter researcher, Rosemary Cogan PhD, found that laughter is a major element of pain-reduction. Humour helps temper intense pain and helps us cope with stress.

How often have we heard that ‘laughter is the best medicine’!  Now we know it may well be the case. So, go ahead, lighten up and titter with laughter at anything or everything. Even a few moments of laughter will provide some value. William Fry, professor emeritus at Stanford University, calls it “prophylactic humour”— or a preventative medicine. Take time to laugh then go back to your duties and responsibilities. It will lighten your load and increase your efficiency.

If only we could be children again, those who still retain nature’s purity and wisdom. Subconsciously, unconsciously and innocently, children laugh 300-400 times a day. With the years much of this wise spontaneity is chopped away with time’s hatchet, reducing our adult laughter to 15-20 times daily….‘ah — the pity of it’!  We take ourselves too seriously and spend our days weighed down with anxiety. Stop gnawing at your guts.. Make lemonade out of lemons!

Dr. Thomas Syndeham, 17th century British physician once observed: “The arrival of a good clown to a village, does more for its health than 20 asses laden with drugs.” It was only a passing observation, but an astute one! Now, 4 centuries later, science has proved him right.

“Laughter sharpens most of the instruments in our immune system’s tool kit”, says Hoard Friedman of the University of California. An optimum sense of humour is related to longevity.  It activates T lymphocites and natural killer cells, both of which help destroy invading micro-organisms. Laughter increases production of immunity cells and reduces levels of stress hormones, which weaken the immune response.

Does it cure illnesses? No!  Does it lower anxiety, boost the immune system, aid circulation, lower blood pressure, oxygenates blood, increase our pain tolerance, relax our muscles, provide more energy? Yes, Yes, Yes!

See the humour, the irony, the absurdity, the silly aspects of life and have a good belly-laugh.

Guffaws and giggles are not frivolous, nonsensical functions. They are instinctive aids to help us continue to carry the heavy burdens of a strenuous, wicked life. Become aware of its benefits and make a concerted effort to take advantage of it.

Humour as a coping mechanism helps students positively. Depressed senior citizens who recovered were the ones with a sense of humour. After laughter we relax, because it indirectly stimulates endorphins, the brain’s natural pain-killer.

During the past few years Laughter Therapy has spread through the US, Europe and Asia. There are Laughter Clubs, Laughter Yoga Centres, Laughter Seminars, Laughter in Stress Management etc. Laughter is indeed a strong medicine! So, go ahead and give a little chuckle, heaven knows we need it!

 Men are the main instigators of humour, that is why there are more male comedians. Women seek men who make them laugh, and men are more interested in women who laugh heartily in their presence. Laughter is a social function. It helps bond people together and occurs 30 times more frequently in social than in solitary situations.

The renowned Mayo Clinic has studied the benefits of laughter and discovered that a good laugh improves mental and physical health. It induces physical changes in your body and stimulates many organs such as the heart, lungs and muscles. It also enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air. It is contagious, spontaneous and uncontrollable. It loosens up the mental gears and encourages out-of-the-ordinary ways of looking at things.

How is your funny bone? You do not feel like laughing? Force yourself. The Mayo Clinic has set up a guideline to help you laugh. Humour can be learned. Improve your mood by spending time with friends who make you laugh. Refine your sense of humour by watching funny photos, comic strips that make you chuckle. See a funny movie or watch a TV comedy. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions decreasing your immunity. Invite positive thoughts, they actually release neuro-peptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illness.

You cannot imagine how many laughs you lose by not laughing at yourself, so go ahead, laugh at yourself and benefit from this natural wonder, this magical heavenly gift!

“If it’s sanity you’re after, there’s no recipe like laughter!”  Henry Rutherford Elliot

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