Ever wonder why laughter is contagious? The average human laughs 17 times in a day and when we hear it, the muscles of our face are triggered to join in, starting a ripple effect. Laughter helps us cope with major illness and life’s stresses. It also strengthens our immune system, and that helps us fight off disease. During a crisis, laughter is a powerful coping mechanism that builds resilience, so let’s find the funny in tense situations.
For several years Development Psychologist, Caspar Addyman, has studied why babies laugh. He discovered they laugh before they speak. Babies articulate first words around 9 months old, but laugh at three months. And, laughter is contagious. Research has found that mostly people may think they laugh at jokes, but we actually laugh most when we are with other people. Psychologist, Robert Probine, who has researched laughter for more than ten years, says that laughter is a social emotion that binds people together. It is shared across cultures and across species. Humans, primates, and even rats laugh.
We can stop a downward spiral by finding something to laugh about. It sets the stage for reframing your thoughts. So, go ahead and laugh. If you need help, here’s some food for thoughts.
To get the giggles started:
Smile, even if you have to fake it
There’s evidence that forcing a smile can improve your mood. It’s a kick-start towards boosting the benefits of laughter.
Since we laugh in social settings, find ways to connect with others. Write funny letters to family and friends. Hang silly signs out the window, or decorate your door with jokes.
Start early in the day
Find things to smile and laugh about as soon as you open your eyes. Encourage your kids to smile at each other’s bed hair (or yours). Share and laugh at your dreams. Make a funny breakfast or add some unexpected items to the table that will make you laugh.
Watch funny movies and comedies
It’s called cinema therapy. Movies affect us powerfully and because they are multi-sensory, they can trigger perceptual, cognitive, and emotional processes like reflection, problem-solving, and empathy. They also allow for an emotional release that is cathartic.
IMDB curates a list of fifty funny kid-friendly movies, but there are far more including classics from our grandparents’ generation that older kids might appreciate. Not to mention TV shows. Who can keep a straight face watching Robin Williams in Mork & Mindy or any blooper show like these on YouTube.
Or, enjoy slapstick comedy? Schadenfreude means “harm-joy” in German, and it explains why slapstick comedies like the Three Stoogies and the Marx Brothers are so popular. At least part of the charm is that you can leave your cares, and your brain, behind and enjoy without a care in the world.
Don’t be embarrassed, be self-compassionate
The next time you feel yourself getting embarrassed by something you did or said, stop and laugh at it instead. Almost any faux pas is recoverable – mistakes are opportunities to learn and laugh about.
Tell silly stories, share jokes
Stories have a transformative power that allows us to see the world in a different way than we might on our own. Walking in another’s shoes can inspire empathy. What funny situations have you experienced? Don’t be embarrassed. Kids love to laugh, most especially at the expense of their parents. Try these jokes. And if there’s nothing from real life, start a story round-robin asking everyone to contribute details along the way.
Laughter brings so many benefits to our health and well-being, so set an intention to make it a priority for your family. So, the next time your kid ask “What do elves learn at school?” go ahead, laugh and reply “The elf-a-bet.”