I always had trouble following the laughter suggestion. I could never figure out how to “make” myself laugh. It felt like we were being given the platitude expressed in Bobby McFerrin’s song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy:”
So laughter is good for us. But how do we do it on command? I have read suggestions such as reading a humorous book, watching a funny movie, etc. The articles I read even gave specific ideas as to what books and which movies would elicit laughter. Our senses of humor are so individualized that I don’t believe specifics are all that useful. While you may find Ferris Bueller hysterical, I found him… well, not.
Some laughter proponents believe that we don’t really need something to laugh about. We can just laugh. There is evidence that the mere act of smiling will bring about a sense of happiness, or if not true happiness at least a sense of wellbeing. In the online article "Ho, ho, ha, ha, ha," author Lim Wey Wen states that “[t]he act of lifting your cheek muscles is enough to stimulate the brain to release endorphins.” Apparently smiling activates memories of previous incidents of smiling and laughing, and the brain responds by producing the associated uplifting effects.
Then there’s laughter yoga. Described at laughteryoga.org as a complete wellbeing workout, laughter yoga is a combination of unconditional laughter and yogic breathing (Pranayama). Started in the mid ‘90s by Dr. Madan Kataria of Mumbai, India, it is now practiced at more than 6,000 Social Laughter Clubs in 60 countries. Groups of people come together and perform warm up techniques to break down inhibitions. Then, through eye contact, “childlike playfulness” and laughter exercises, what starts out as forced laughter soon becomes real laughter. The underlying concept is that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. Laughter is a physical thing and we don’t necessarily need mental stimulus.
Something I have noticed at the treatment centers is that sometimes people seem to need to give themselves permission to laugh. After all, we’re all depressed here, and it’s no laughing matter. It’s almost as if succumbing to laughter will somehow negate the seriousness of the struggle we are facing. At the treatment centers I could see on patients' faces that they found something amusing, but it was like they were holding themselve back from enjoying the moment.
I remember one of the first times I went to the treatment program (yes, I’ve been more than once), I was sitting in a classroom and everyone around me seemed to be laughing and joking and having a grand old time. And I was miserable. I was sure that either they or I were in the wrong room. I couldn’t fathom the thought of ever finding humor in life again. It made me feel even worse, if that were possible.
Maybe we have to get beyond major crisis mode before we can consider introducing laughter back into our lives, but we don’t have to call an interminable moratorium on humor. Even if we have to resort to gallows humor at first, if it makes us laugh, I see it as a good start.
So here’s my humorous quote for the day:
"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much." -- Mother Teresa
As I said, humor is subjective.