Laughter is the best medicine

Ever had a day where everything has gone against you? Car trouble, boss trouble, wife trouble, in fact any trouble. You are miserable, you want to get drunk and punch the nearest wall and then someone tells you something funny and all those miserable feelings just evaporate! Gone as if they never existed in the first place. You laugh until tears start pouring out of your eyes and your sides begin to hurt.  Laughter is like that.

I have no idea who came up with the adage that ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ but research suggests that it was the Bible and then Readers Digest.  Quite ironic that the book that caused so much suffering was so insightful when it came to laughter!

We all like to laugh. Even the miserable ones out there secretly enjoy it! Some of us enjoy watching comedies, others go to comedy gigs and others just live with comedic people. Whatever your poison, subconsciously we all want a good laugh. Apparently laughing makes you lose weight, stay younger and makes you more attractive. Ok, I made all that up, but laughing can be good for you. Well, most of the time, anyway!

I remember that Readers Digest had a section on Laughter being the best medicine and I have to agree.  Research into laughter has revealed conflicting results.  It does conclude that laughter is a social mechanism and we are all affected by it, in some way or another.  One study suggests that it is like speaking tongues, in that the ‘ha ha ha’ or the ‘hee hee hee’ somehow communicates something to our neural pathways that encourage us to reciprocate.

The science behind laughter is incomplete and, to be frank, pretty long winded.  I know.  I read most of it before even thinking of writing this article.  I don’t mind giving you my thoughts on puppies but when it comes to something as technical as laughter, I try and make sure I know what I am talking about; and that is a rarity unto itself – me knowing what I am on about!

One thing is clear, though.  When it comes to the dating game, women prefer men who make them laugh.  Laughter has a feel good factor to it.  Try to remember the last time you had a good laugh and then how you felt afterwards.  No doubt you were wiping away the remaining tears and still giggling as the incident that made you laugh is replayed in your mind.  Is it a design of nature that men try and make women laugh as part of the mating process?  Lets face it, when a woman is asked about her partner you will usually hear that he or she has a great sense of humour.

Laughing at work is also a favourite.  At the lower levels of the work hierarchy, laughter is more acceptable.  As you progress up the ladder, you tend to find that the executives laugh less as they are supposed to be leaders.  I find this a crock!  I was a manager of a lot of men and women and was always joining the banter.  My immediate superiors were not impressed and I was repeatedly told that I was above them and should not be so familiar with my subordinates!  I couldn’t believe they were serious.  It didn’t matter as I ignored them anyway and I continued as I had before.  What my superiors didn’t seem to realise is that when your subordinates see their boss interacting with them and not standing off, they work harder and aim to please.  They aren’t afraid to seek advice to problems be they professional or otherwise.  I had a great team working for me.  Obviously there was a line in the sand, I was, after all, their boss, but they rarely, if ever, crossed that line.

Laughter is contagious.  You must have been in a situation where someone broke out laughing and soon everyone gets the giggles, then laughs.  It can’t be helped.  Laughter is a social thing, people may have a quick giggle when they are alone, but they wont laugh out loud.  Even though people go to comedy clubs and watch comedy on TV, it’s actually the one to one interaction between individuals that propagates the most laughter.  The speaker may have ended a comment with a laugh which, in turn, caused others to laugh.  With the exception of comedians, it is usually the originator of the funny comment that laughs the most!

There is proof that laughter can help with people who are ill.  I remember a film with Robin Williams in which he played a doctor called Patch Adams.  It was a fascinating film and highlights what I have written above.  Patch didn’t take any notice of his superiors or how he was supposed to interact with his ill patients, but went out of his way to inject a little humour into their lives.  This had a dramatic affect in that his patients started to get better.

I don’t know if it is true or not but I know from experience that when hurt or injured, laughing can make you forget about the pain and the situation.

A true story.  I was called one night by the police.  Apparently one of my subordinates was thinking about committing suicide.  Immediately I gathered as much information as I could and raced to meet up with the police in order to see the person in question.  She was a married woman who’s husband was working abroad.  When we finally managed to get her to answer the door, she was in a mess.  I knew her well and had a laugh and a joke with her before, but this was not the time to be laughing.  After the police left the matter in my hands, I had two options.  I could either get her committed to a hospital for psychological evaluation and thereby ruin her career or I could see if I could stop her thinking about doing something silly and get through the problem.

At first, the conversation was very serious.  Suicide isn’t something you joke about to a young, vulnerable woman.  But, because she already knew me, I was her boss but one that had taken the time to know her and have a laugh with her, she trusted me.  And that was the key thing.  Trust.  After five hours of being with her, we were laughing at the most ridiculous things and she was feeling a lot better, both mentally and physically.  I asked her if she would see me the following morning and she agreed.  I took a risk and left her, hoping that she wouldn’t do something silly.  She didn’t.  She reported to me the following morning and all was okay.

I was very proud of what I had done.

Now my friends and family come and visit me and make me laugh.  They don’t come dressed as clowns or anything, but through conversation, “Do you remember that bloke that…..” and then the laughter as we recall whatever stupid incident it was.  Also, it’s weird how we laugh at other people’s misfortune (as long as it’s not serious).  That’s how all these ‘Ooops TV’ and ‘Jackass’ came to be.

Laughing is uncomfortable for me, but when I laugh I forget it for a few moments.  Laughing with my friends makes me forget all the troubles in the world and makes me feel comfortable and companionship.  Laughing is inherent in our culture and our society.  It is good for us and the world would be a much better place if we could all have a laugh when were realise that what we thought was serious was stupid instead!

Sorry, this is my longest post and I have digressed so much.  I know you understand and I hope that you all have a good laugh at least a few times a day.  Life is a serious business, I know, but laughing makes us get through it so much easier.  Try it and see.

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