All About Laughter

The Sound of Laughter

Describing the effect of laughter is rather like explaining a joke or talking about something that was funny at the time – you just need to be there. E. B. White is quoted as saying “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies”. However, the type of laughter that interests me most is unconditional laughter, which doesn’t rely on comedy or humour and is even more difficult to explain. It is contagious in the same way that we often feel the urge to yawn if we observe someone yawning (this effect has even been seen in dogs who yawn in response to seeing humans yawn!). This audio was taken at the end of one of the community laughter sessions I run. Listen and see if you find yourself smiling or even laughing, which will give you a better understanding than what you may read, although ‘being there’ in the group is they way to truly understand it.

Why laugh?

Well why not? There is nothing like having a good laugh to instantly lift your mood. I’ve noticed that when people tell funny anecdotes about something that happened to them in the past, it usually involves something going wrong, getting lost, looking foolish, having an accident or a misunderstanding for instance. If you are going to laugh later, why not laugh now?

 

The science

The science of laughter is not just interesting it’s compelling. Unfortunately, it is difficult to make people laugh, as many failed comedians have discovered. Laughter studies often use comedy films and videos to get people to laugh but the difficulty with this approach is that a sense of humour is very personal. Some people prefer slapstick humour, the use of puns, anecdotal or a narrative style. Also, it probably feels strange to be laughing in an unusual environment, often a lab at a university, knowing that you are part of a study. Laughing in front of people you don’t know can feel socially uncomfortable and unnatural.  However, despite these drawbacks to laughter studies, the findings still show that they are many physical, psychological, emotional and social benefits that come from laughing.

 

Mindfulness

The act of laughing is a truly mindful experience, when we are unable to think about the past or future and become wholly absorbed in the minute. In my experience of running laughter sessions for the past five years is that laughter has the ability to help the shy and introverted open up and can help those who are more extroverted and energetic, calm down. It seems to provide a balance to the body and to the emotional state, and re-sets us.

 

Pain Tolerance

A great amount of research has been done about the benefits of laughter to increase tolerance to pain, not just during the experience of laughing but for some time afterwards.

 

Laughing on purpose

It would be lovely if life offered us so many opportunities to laugh each day (actually it does but most of us are too busy to notice) but ironically, the times we would benefit most from laughter, when we are stressed for instance, are the times when we are less likely to. Laughter Yoga was developed by Dr Madan Kataria as a way for people to gain health benefits from laughter without relying on humour or comedy. Now there are thousands of Laughter Yoga clubs around the world.

 

New Forest Laughter Club

In 2012 I formed the New Forest Laughter club to facilitate laughter sessions in my local community. The sessions are free to anyone and we have several people who travel from afar to join in with our hour of laughter. Although we do some laughter yoga exercises there are also games and activities that encourage laughter which happens spontaneously amongst the group. Over the years the club has been featured on TV, radio and in several magazines. I’d be very happy others introduced something similar in their communities, as people that laugh together, bond together. New Forest Laughter Club details.

 

Laugh Your Way to Happiness

Although it wasn’t my intention to write a book about the science of laughter I did and in 2014 ‘Laugh Your Way to Happiness’ was published by Watkins/Random House/ Hay House publishers.

 

Laughter Yoga Teacher Training

I was trained as Laughter Teacher/Trainer by Dr Madan Kataria himself in 2012 at his centre in Bangalore. Nowadays I rarely have the time to run this training programme although I do once a twice a year for open courses and by arrangement for organisations and charities.

 

Conference Talk & Ice-breaker

Laughter is a wonderful way to begin a conference and I have presented a talk on the science of laughter followed by a laughter session for several organisations including British Airways and Toastmasters International.

 

Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. Victor Hugo