I’m sure we’ve all heard that “laughter is the best medicine.” Indeed, I’ve seen many articles touting the effects that laughter has on our health and in fighting disease. But I’d like to just reflect on the psychological benefits of laughter that I have observed in my life.
Have you ever gone a day without laughing? The average adult supposedly laughs 17 times per day. I’m sure that I’ve had some days with no laughter at all, and I presume that those days were difficult, if not miserable, by the end of them. We really do need to laugh each day. From my own experience, however, not all laughter is created equal. The laughter that comes from watching a YouTube video, a tv show, or reading a funny tweet does not have the same effect as sharing in laughter with another person. Laughter that is solitary and manufactured from some non-personal source has more of a placebo effect than actual medicine. The positivity, cheerfulness, and playfulness that may spark from this type of laughter usually doesn’t last. It quickly fizzles out and has no substantial, lasting effect.
The type of laughter that tends to be a game-changer, a day-changer, and I’ll argue can even be a life-changer, is the laughter that is shared with others. Sometimes this can come from watching or reading something together. The other day, my coworker and I were losing ourselves in laughter as we read off names of college football players from the 2018 Preseason All-Name Team: Squally Canada. Bumper Pool. Dicaprio Bootle. And our favorite: Steele Fortress. We were nearly, literally, ROFL from just saying some of these names to each other. And it had an effect that just couldn’t compare to reading the names alone, or even sharing them through a text or tweet.
Still better is the laughter from discussing past hilarious experiences with the people we shared them with. Reminiscing is great, and reminiscing about the funny past experiences that we’ve had with one another not only produces positive psychological effects, but it can be a catalyst in forging and maintaining some of our most meaningful friendships.
The best medicine of all, I think, is the laughter that we share with others that comes directly in the moment of a shared conversation or experience. The silliness, playfulness, sarcasm, and observational humor that we have in conversation with others--again just from my own experience--tends to bring about the most lasting positive psychological effects.
Some of my fondest moments of fatherhood have been laughing at all of the funny, cute, and downright strange things that our little girl does every day. Some of my fondest moments in marriage have been when my wife and I just find a mutual “humor groove” as we playfully banter back and forth. It not only forges our friendship, but it even deepens our intimacy with one another. Our raw, unmasked self, which we always seem to keep hidden, is revealed in the midst of this unconscious playfulness and humor. And maybe that’s the best benefit of all: our truest, perhaps goofiest, and most fully alive self has been unleashed. And that’s why laughter can be a life-changer.
So laugh today, and add some humor to your conversations and interactions. I promise that you won’t overdose. But if you do, it will be well worth it!