Have you ever been in a group and nearby someone starts laughing and it goes on like a rolling wave? Have you noticed that everyone's attention is drawn to the one laughing and then it becomes contagious and everyone is laughing although they may not know what ignited the laughter? Laughter is infectious and affects the body in the most marvelous ways.
A daily dose of laughter can change doom and gloom into possibilities. During the last century, laughter lifted many spirits. The Great Depression was not easy to live through and as a little girl I remember evenings where we were glued to the radio listening to such great comedians as Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Jack Benny, Red Skelton, the Marx Brothers, Gracie Allen and George Burns, Red Skelton, Danny Kaye, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, and Fanny Brice. These great comedians kept us laughing not only by the radio, but also in the movies and the early television show. Other great comedians followed in their footsteps.
In 1980, I read an interesting book by Norman Cousins titled, Anatomy of An Illness. This was based on his own life-threatening disease. Cousins had been admitted to a hospital and there was very little hope of him leaving alive. He checked himself out and as the story goes, went to a motel where he began watching movies such as the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello and many of the comedians mentioned above. He immersed himself in humor – laughter along with taking mega Vitamin C. He knew laughter was the best medicine and he healed himself.
Science is recognizing the healing power of laughter. Something I never knew is that laughter affects the body's anatomy caused by the epiglottis constricting the larynx. Now what in the name of humor is the epiglottis? I had to look this one up and the definition is, "The epiglottis is a flap of cartilage located in the throat behind the tongue and in front of the larynx." I still don't know exactly what that is, however I do know that a good belly laugh makes me feel better.
The scientific language states that it's physiological effects on the human body is called gelotology. Gelotology? Could that be related to jello? Perhaps it is similar such as 'shake, rattle and roll.' I know that laughter is a release valve for tension and stress. Sometimes when I get in a potential stressful situation, I begin to laugh.
The therapeutic benefits of laughter is that it not only is a release valve for stress, it enhances the immune system. Over the years, I have learned that the immune system is affected by worry, stress, unreleased anger and hatred, jealousy, fear and similar emotions that weaken the immune system.
What other benefits are there in laughter? In addition to strengthening the immune system, it boosts energy and also lessens pain. The subtleness of laughter brings the mind and body into balance as well keeping you focused, alert and grounded. Another benefit is that it protects the heart. I also learned that laughter is connected to the hippocampus, which is a sheet of neurons that is involved with our emotions and our new memories.
Wow! Laughter can do all that? Think of the medical bills you will save and the time sitting in a doctor's office, however I wouldn't stop taking your medicine or seeing your doctor until you are truly aligned with your laughter.
Perhaps we can campaign to have an hour a day of laughter in our schools, the convalescent homes, and in stressful work places.
I knew I must have been doing something good, because as I was writing this, a friend sent me a video about how contagious laughter is. This is a YouTube video titled: Merci (Bodhisattva in metro). I invite you to watch this and join in the fun.
"Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors."
~ Norman Cousins