Sunday, April 14, 2024



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Nick Nunes

It may have been terrifying when the Joker asked,“Why so serious?” but it’s an honest question that a good portion of the population should ask themselves more often than they do. We live in a very serious world and the growing immediacy of our lives can have serious stress effects on our mental state that can transfer to real physical issues.

“We find no human societies in which laughter does not figure as part of the social life, as, in fact, a part of the group language. If scorn is the lash, laughter is the jolly policeman who keeps the social traffic going after the approved manner, whose power inheres not in itself, but lies in the tribal standard which it bodies forth,” wrote Wilson D. Wallace in a 1922 volume of The Scientific Monthly.

Laughter is one of the most basic human traits that binds us to our fellows. Still, it’s one of the most mysterious scientific pursuits.

Innumerable decades of scientific pursuit have been spent on trying to figure out exactly what makes things amusing but there doesn’t seem to be any concrete way to determine what funny is.

According to E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web, “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.”

Laughter might very well be the most universal human language, and a source of healing. Every culture across the seas of time exhibits humour, even though the cause of the hilarity might be lost on others excluded from the particular social group at the centre of any particular cause of jocularity.

Robert R. Provine, PhD, a behavioural neurobiologist at the University of Maryland in Baltimore said in an interview, “Laughter is a mechanism everyone has; laughter is part of universal human vocabulary. There are thousands of languages, hundreds of thousands of dialects, but everyone speaks laughter in pretty much the same way.”

But, what is the basis for laughter? It’s an inherent part of biology it seems. And we aren’t alone in our laughter. Apes, rats, dogs, crows, elephants, dolphins, sea lions, bears, cats, whales, cows, and many others also laugh.

A research article by Sasha L. Winkler & Gregory A. Bryant published in Bioacoustics this year reported, “We found reports of vocal play signals throughout the mammal literature, especially among primates, rodents, social carnivores, and (to a lesser extent) marine mammals. In the case of primates, play vocalisations are documented in the majority of species that have been studied extensively.

Additionally, researchers have described at least three species of birds with playspecific calls.” The more research goes into laughter, even across species, the more scientists realise that it is one of basic bonding methods. Whether social or romantic bonding, laughter is a primal release.

Freud believed that laughter released “nervous energy” which lends to the reason why taboo subjects and reversal of fortune tales are found to be funny.

Another theory on the subject of laughter, reported in Scientific American, “[I]s the theory of incongruity. People laugh at the juxtaposition of incompatible concepts and at defiance of their expectations—that is, at the incongruity between expectations and reality.”

Regardless of the reason for laughter, it is always a communicative symbol. Laughter lets the group know you understand the joke and share amusement by whatever premise is presented. But laughter can also be therapeutic.

The 1998 Robin Williams film Patch Adams, took the real life of Dr Hunter Doherty “Patch” Adams to the screen.

Adams is not only a medical doctor but a professed clown and social activist.

His Gesundheit! Institute, which was founded in 1971, is a place where humour is used as a form of therapy for the patients.

Another article from a 2020 issue of Scientific American informed, “We’re also 30 times more likely to laugh in a group.

Young children between the ages of 2.5 and four were found to be eight times more likely to laugh at a cartoon when they watched it with another child, even though they were just as likely to report that the cartoon was funny whether alone or not.”

Some studies have shown that laughter can help coping with pain. One study found that when children had their hands rested in icy water while watching funny videos they were able to tolerate the cold longer.

Laughter has been shown to lessen anxiety and reduce chronic stress.

Apropos of being able to laugh more and see humour rather than giving in to anxiety or anger, people that laugh more tend to have fewer heart attacks and have better blood pressure.

Maybe it’s time everyone take themselves a little less seriously and make some room in your life to make yourself or others laugh. It is, after all, one of the most innate bonding methods we can share. Children laugh before they can speak and we could all learn a little from the happiness of children and benefit from a bit of joy being spread around.

According to the Mayo Clinic: Short-term benefits

A good laugh has great short-term effects.

When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can: Stimulate many organs.

Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.

Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.

Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Long-term effects Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up, though. It’s also good for you over the long-term. Laughter may:

• Improve your immune system.

Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity.

By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses.

• Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.

• Increase personal satisfaction.

Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.

• Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.


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