No Joke: You Should Be Laughing More
This New Yorker cartoon made me chuckle. Artist David Sipress has a way of capturing the humor in the most annoying experiences, especially in the context of air travel. I think anyone who’s had to contend with the cramped, claustrophic experience of flying would be amused by this cartoon.
But what struck me as I chuckled is that I chuckled out loud. And that made me wonder how often I truly laugh. Probably not nearly often enough, given all the health benefits of laughter. For example, laughter relaxes the whole body, boosts the immune system, and relieves stress. In addition, it lowers blood pressure, exercises several muscles, and increases the response of disease-killing cells. That’s a pretty good case for laughing as often as possible.
We’re told that the average four-year-old laughs three hundred times a day. Like the writer of this blog post, my reaction is “Three hundred? Really?” Who followed four-year-olds around for an entire day with the laugh-o-meter clicking away? Maybe researchers had some happy-go-lucky four-year-olds in an uproariously funny laboratory setting for ten minutes each, then counted how often the kids laughed and extrapolated to a full day?
Still, as the blog post points out, the exact number doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t even matter whether the number is research-based or just a made-up number that sounds so good that it’s repeatedly repeated. The simple fact is that kids typically laugh lots more than adults. Once we become adults, things become so much more serious. We have worries and responsibilities that kids don’t. Work is tough, often far from a source of amusement. So we laugh less—sometimes not much at all.
Nevertheless, some people laugh lots. Rosa, a friend I hike with, laughs through the entire hike. Somehow, everyone she talks to during these hikes provides a source of merriment for her, and when she laughs, everyone else laughs, too. When I’m with her, I laugh more because she’s always laughing. Granted, the setting is lighthearted, not workaday serious. Still, she’s an inspiration. She’s one of those people who bring a sense of joy to everyone around her. Maybe when she’s at work she turns into a grump, but I doubt it.
Some people talk about upping their laugh quota, but I don’t think it’s useful to get all quantitative about it. It’s more about being a little less somber and serious. Rosa is an excellent reminder to laugh more often. This means lightening up. It means seeking and seeing the humor in everyday experiences. And it means hanging around with people who laugh a lot. Join us on a hike if you like.