The Power of Laughter

It’s true that laughter is often the best medicine. Here’s why we should be doing more of it.

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit New Zealand, you’ll hopefully have enjoyed some of what makes the country special.

The Kiwis (New Zealanders) live in a land replete with natural beauty, have a distinct indigenous population (Maori) and a few sheep. We also love rugby (the haka!) and cricket. And we are a very funny lot of people.

Well… funny at least according to us. Because, actually you might not notice when a joke is being made. It would likely have been delivered with a straight face, dry tone of voice, indecipherable Kiwi accent and using vocabulary only heard in this corner of the world.

If in doubt, just laugh anyway, and then say “Sweet as, bro!” The Kiwis are going to love you.

*Translation: “I’m exhausted although I haven’t done much this afternoon. But that’s ok!”

By the way, if you’ve ever been baffled by the Kiwi accent, you’ll get a laugh from this video: A Very Merry Mistake (https://youtu.be/M3Q_3a7HfA0).

In any event, whether you understood that Kiwi joke, or only thought you did, the most important thing is that you laughed. Because laughing, like birthdays, is good for you. And science has proven that those who have more birthdays live longer. 😜

Why Laughing Is So Great

Here are three of the top benefits of laughter:

1) Humor is helpful in difficult times

“If you can laugh at it, you can live with it.”

Difficult situations are often the times where we most need moments of light relief. Laughter can provide much needed perspective, lower stress levels, ease tension and bring people closer together.

Obviously the humor needs to be respectful, appropriate and considerate of your audience – cracking jokes at a funeral may not be advisable. As a rule of thumb, if you have to end your joke with “What, too soon!?”, it’s probably best to keep it to yourself.

Laughter brings immediate physical benefits to the body. These include a decrease in muscle tension and blood pressure, as well as an increase in endorphins. The result is a healthier immune system, greater sense of well-being and an analgesic effect against pain.

Laughter can also alleviate tension and thus help people in resolving disputes and disagreement. In relationships, studies show that couples that laugh together stay together longer. Note: the word “together is key – making jokes at your partner’s expense is not going to help the relationship last.

At times we can get bogged down in the negative parts of a situation and lose perspective of the bigger picture. Humor can add perspective and help bring the focus to solution finding, instead of being stuck in the problem itself.

At other times we find ourselves in situations where there does not appear to be a solution. Here humor may simply be form of relief, even if momentary.

“Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.”

Viktor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning”

2) Laughter is great for those around you

Laughter is a social tool

You may be surprised to know that the main source of laughter on a daily basis is not jokes, funny stories or blogs (such as this one 😝).

We most often laugh in a social context as a form of communication.** The subject matter is generally not objectively ‘funny’. But in laughing, we connect with people, break social barriers and demonstrate solidarity and friendship.

You don’t have to go to New Zealand to find some laughs – you just need to go out and have fun with your friends.

“I’m struck by how laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter.”

John Cleese

** To learn more, you can read “Laughter – The Science of Why We Laugh” by Robert Provine.

Laughter is contagious

Our brains are programed to laugh upon hearing laughter. That’s why laughter is such an effective social tool and why laughing is good for those around you. It’s also why we have “canned laughter” in tv shows.

It may also mean you can raise the chances of someone laughing at your bad jokes by laughing yourself. And if I insert a “hahaha” after a joke, perhaps I’m more likely to get a smile out of you? Let’s try this out:

– What do ‘Alexander the Great’ and ‘Winnie the Pooh’ have in common?
– Same middle name

Did you laugh? No? How about after this:

Hahahaha! LOL LOL ROTFLMAO! 😅😂🤣

Now are you laughing? Still no? Pfff… you’re too serious.

3) Laughing at yourself makes life easier

“As long as you can laugh at yourself, you will never cease to be amused.”

In my opinion, the ability to laugh at yourself is one of the most important survival tools in life. Life has its difficult moments and let’s face it, you’re going to be screwing a number of those moments up. If you can get a laugh out of it, getting through those moments will be easier.

Being able to laugh at myself when I mess up has helped me build a better relationship with myself. Laughter is an implicit acceptance that I’m not perfect, but that it’s okay.

Laughing at myself takes away the need to pretend like I’m not embarrassed / feeling like an idiot. And when I can be myself without pretending, the feeling of embarrassment disappears a lot quicker. Plus, if I’m already laughing when others start laughing at me, they’re laughing with me, not at me, right?

Laughing also is a great alternative to feeling frustrated. If you can see the humour in the situation, you instantly feel lighter, less stressed and tense.

Why We Should Laugh More

Laughter in itself doesn’t necessarily add value to your life. Cackling maniacally to yourself in the late hours of the night, while sipping a glass of red wine and stroking your black & white cat, sounds more like a supervillain scene than something healthy.

What we should do more of it was laughter can represent – finding humor in the difficult, spending quality time connecting with friends and loved ones (laughing at their funny or not so funny stories) and accepting ourselves despite our mistakes.

Laughter reminds us to not be so serious that we fail to enjoy the good things that we have in our lives, even if at the same time we have difficult things as well.

Laughter is the recognition that life is not perfect and that we are not perfect, but that there is still joy to be found despite this.

So don’t wait for that trip to New Zealand to laugh with those funny Kiwis. Make laughter something you do more of as part of your daily life, starting here and now.

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”

Victor Hugo

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