Laughter (A Love Story)

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Laugh ’til it hurts (because that’s when it really feels good)!

Laughter is the best medicine. We instinctively know when something rings with Truth, and that old cliché certainly rings true.  I guess the whole reason it’s a cliché in the first place is because clichés are the redundancy of truth.

laughing heartWe know that it feels good to enjoy the happiness of laughter versus the sadness of crying.  The feelings associated with the physical manifestations of emotional energy couldn’t be more opposite.  One feels bad.  One feels really good (I hope everybody agrees that it’s the laughter that feels good).

Because I love to feel good I find my closest, and by far best, relationships are filled with a lot of laughter.  I choose my friends for their wit and ability to laugh (at themselves and the world around them).

Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one. – Oscar Wilde

Laughter for healthy bowels?

Cliché or not, the facts are in on laughter.  Many researchers believe that lowered serotonin levels lead to depression.  Being the biochemical masterpieces that our bodies have evolved (and continue to evolve) to, we can combat depression (and even lack of bowel movements?) with humor.  Laughter naturally releases the “happy neurotransmitter” into our bodies – it basically transmits impulses in the space between nerve cells.  With 80% of serotonin found in the gut (for the regulation of the intestinal tract), you can see how one might believe that laughter can really help loosen you up in more ways than one.

The oh-so-spiritual Pineal Gland

The oh-so-spiritual Pineal Gland

Serotonin is also the precurser to melatonin which helps regulate our sleep patterns.  Again, good serotonin levels can help us sleep better. Melatonin is secreted from the beautiful cone-shaped pineal gland in the middle of our brain.  This gland (without a right or a left side, but dead center) is known to secrete many substances that have given it the nickname “Spirit Gland”. In that vein, laughter brings you closer to your spiritual Self.

When you’re feeling down, if you can find just the right humor, you can laugh yourself silly (and chase those blues away).  A few months ago, one of my friends lost her beloved dog. Her best friend and roommate helped her through the grief by purchasing the first 2 seasons of “Workaholics”.  Now it’s not a show that everybody will “get”, but it’s full of the perfect “inappropriate humor” that my friends and I love (along with the likes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, “The Office”, etc).

Laughter:  the all-around feel-good exercise.

Since our body responds to our thoughts, laughter can also eradicate illness.  From a recent article on the benefits of laughter:

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. – Mark Twain

 Why do we laugh?

goatboy-jimbreuerBabies average hundreds of laughs per day. Laughter is the audible and physical expression of a joyful emotional state.  To learn A LOT MORE about the subject, just visit the Wikipedia page on laughter.

While I’m sure I didn’t understand irony and satire as a days-old baby, it has certainly been my favorite form of humor (and thus laughter) since I could understand a sarcastic remark when I heard it.

Satire is as old as, well, Ancient Greece. Satire is a form of comedy. Of course, one didn’t often guffaw during a satirist’s iteration of post-tragic irony. It was much more socially acceptable to fervently chuckle.  It should also be noted here that  history always repeats itself.  Thousands of years beyond Euripides, Saturday Night Live’s own Jim Breuer did a satire on a Satyr with his popular Goat Boy character.

My personal comedic preferences lean toward modern day social-satire more than other forms of humor; though a well-timed prat fall or pre-pubescent poop joke will always get a chuckle because, well, I like to laugh.  (When one is born with two big dimples, it’s kind of expected.)  I think some of my love of humor also comes from my mother’s constant reading of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss).  Her voice with his words are some of my oldest, and fondest, memories.  It didn’t hurt that I grew with young parents and aunts/uncles who all seemed to have inherited an acerbic wit and love of sarcasm.

Laughter in Paradise

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While one might think Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy is in fact a knee-slapper, one pass through the “Inferno” and you realize the title is simply a play on words.  God must be funny because look at what has been created.

But paradise is indeed filled with enjoyment.  Just look at the teachings from the past.  When speaking of Eden, so many writers allude to dancing and glee, and there are many spiritual and religious texts that refer to joy and laughter as being in a state of grace.

  • (Holy Bible – KJV) Proverbs 17:22 – A merry heart doeth good [like] a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
  • “It is cheerful to God when you rejoice or laugh from the bottom of your heart.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “The whole play of existence is so beautiful that laughter can be the only response to it. Only laughter can be the real prayer, gratitude.” – Osho

“Joyful living” is a precept of some Eastern thought. I am of the belief that, where there is joy, there is laughter and where there is laughter, there is joy.  Laughing Buddha is one of the most joyful icons in spiritual understanding.

On the other hand, there are particular religious beliefs that refer to too much laughter as “deadening the heart”.  Based on biological insight, that couldn’t be further from the truth. As we now know, laughter makes the heart healthier!

Humor and laughter is intelligent and creative

 

The Tarsier is a small species of primate that is found inhabiting the well-vegetated forests on a number of islands in southeast Asia.

The Tarsier is a small species of primate that is found inhabiting the well-vegetated forests on a number of islands in southeast Asia.

According to modern research, having a sense of a humor can be a sign of intelligence or psychological balance.  These are indicators for mating selection in humans.  Ever hear a woman say, “I like him because he’s funny”?  Laughter is not only joy, but it means you “got the joke”, and when you get it, you’re thought to be smarter.  If you MAKE the joke, you’re not only smart but creative as well.

By the way, if you’re really smart, and you’re interested in humor, check out this cool discussion on humor and intelligence.

Our creator must have a sense of humor. Just look around this world we inhabit with crazy little bug-eyed creatures, big red baboon butts,insanely long giraffe necks, weird-looking fish.  We also have humans in Hollywood and government who look and/or act like that .  They are things not completely understood, but nonetheless humorous.

Believing that intelligent creativity is why I’m here, I especially like this quote.

God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. -Voltaire

My personal list for gut-busting laughter

In no particular order, and by no means complete, the things I look to whether I’m in need of a chuckle or a belly laugh:

    • Arrested Development (I’m so thankful Netflix agreed and brought this brilliant show back for a Season 4!  To this day, my favorite episode is “Bringing Up Buster” – Season 1 Episode 3)
    • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (amazing political satire and dream anchor *eye flutter*)jonstewart
    • Most Will Ferrell movies (another “Anchorman”)
    • old Adam Sandler Movies (the Madison/Gilmore era)
    • old Looney Toons (can you believe they got away with that propaganda? Talk about satire and irony…)
    • Ok.  A LOT of cartoons.  “The Simpsons”, “Family Guy” and of course “Southpark”
    • Stand-up comedians including (but certainly not limited to):
      • Bill Burr (Cynicism is sexy)
      • Kevin Hart (the old stuff, when his short jokes were still hilarious)
      • Joe Rogan (lots of cursing and genius thought)
      • Ari Shafir (lots of cursing and weird genius thought)
      • Anthony Jeselnik (sarcastically funny and terribly easy on the eyes)
      • Patton Oswalt (lots of cursing and genius social insight)
      • old Robin Williams (the early years, when his act was full of cursing and cocaine)
      • George Carlin (incredible amount of cursing and prophet-like insight)
      • Jim Breuer (no cursing and great Goat Boy)
      • Harland Williams (can’t recall cursing…  love his audience interaction and who doesn’t adore a funny children’s book author?)
      • Ellen DeGeneres (no cursing and a lesbian… let’s be honest, if you’re gay in America, you better be able to laugh {at yourself and the ignorance you encounter})

The next time it hurts…

I’m certain there a many schools of pysch-thought that would disapprove of this behavior, but the next time you’re hurting, find a way to laugh.  I have a history of what we can call clumsiness. I break bones, and I’m especially hard on the soft tissues in my body.  I don’t bawl my eyes from the pain of my injuries because I learned early on to laugh. Just a few years ago,  I found myself laughing as my ankle swelled to the size of a grapefruit as I sat on the sidewalk of a busy street, and I cracked jokes as the doctor pulled the 20 stitches out of it 2 months later.

I know the “accepted” response to pain is crying; however, I am of the belief that our thoughts have a direct effect of on our physical self.  We know that laughter releases ‘feel good’ chemicals, so it would only make sense to try to laugh through a painful situation.

After the initial shock of a break-up (when I cry, watch Nicholas Sparks films and don’t shower for a few weeks), I eventually pull myself out of the funk with humor (and finally a shower).

I’m sure I’m supposed to “feeeeeeeeeeeel the pain.  Endure it. Don’t run away from it.”  My laughter should never be misconstrued as an ignorance of pain.  Oh no.  The pain is there. Of that I’m certain. I simply use the power gifted  me, and everyone else, in making the choice to feel better instead.

charlie-chaplin

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