What happen at the physiological level when we laugh?
From a physiological viewpoint laughter, as Sigmund Freud says, is mental sneeze that can liberate the mind; a joke sets up a channel of release that is very useful for freeing energy that we use to keep under control our fears and our worries. This liberation from tension and the relaxation that follows it produce pleasure.
After laughing or even crying, whether for too much laughter or too much suffering, we feel better.
The communicative and social value of laughter is also shown by the organs and apparatus that are involved.
We always laugh with the mouth wide open, emitting air thanks to the action of exhalation.
Crying, on the other hand, is made up of a series of in-drawn breaths that are continuously interrupted by sudden contractions of the diaphragm.
Thus, laughter is a sort of extroversion of the libido, while crying represents introversion.
We can theorize, from a psychoanalytic viewpoint, that laughter as a pleasure mechanism and the tears that follow too much laughter, are a repetition of the pleasure and suffering experienced at birth.
We are well when we laugh, and we tackle positively and with better results our many daily tasks; this is understandable if we think that, as mentioned above, Freud says that “laughter makes energy available that was used until that moment to control intimate psychological conditions…”
What do you think it means to have more energy?
It’s obvious that can give the best of ourselves in the various areas of life. Of all the available examples, let’s take the one related to learning and memory. Humor has an anxiety-releasing property for the nervous student and thus enables him to improve his exam results considerably.
But laughter can also have other applications in the area of teaching and learning. These applications can be employed at school, at the work-place, at home or in any other circumstance. Research in the last few years shows that the use of humor optimizes learning, memory and creativity. One could argue that this result is due to at least two causes. The first is that, if the student is nervous, his attention is taken up and distracted by tension and cannot therefore act as it should.
Humor serves to:
- – reduce anxiety
- – re-awaken the student’s attention, allowing for efficient and satisfactory work
- – stimulate curiosity about the ideas to be learned and maintain curiosity
- – hold the material to be learned in the memory
- improve the teacher-student relationship because it keeps alive listening and learning
Relegating humor and comedy to minor art forms, with the excuse that it is only the body that laughs and thus the lowest instincts, was an operation of great cultural myopia.
One thinks “Laughter is associated with ‘the low’, with the body and therefore it is a long way away from the sublime summit of the spirit …” and yet one also says that someone who knows how to laugh is full of spirit.
The root of the two words is the same.
At the psychological level humor and the laughter that follows it:
- Create a positive mental state
- Improve the ability to manage difficult situations because humor decreases the distance between people
- Increase extroversion
- Improve self-esteem and reduce shyness
- Develop the sense of humor … if you allow me the luxury of laughter you also allow me to open myself to other viewpoints (Riccardo Bacchelli, who knew what he was talking about as far as humor went, used to say: ‘Stupid people are always impressed, if for no other reason because there are so many of them.’).
Humor and laughter are a form of meditation because when one laughs one does not think of anything else. Laughing helps to stop the continuous flow of thoughts and makes us live in the present. It also helps us to ask the great questions of life. … (Men! You have in hand the future o the human species! Written on the wall of a London urinal.)
Humor and laughter are a pre-verbal, universal and primordial language. If I see an Eskimo laughing I don’t ask myself, ‘What’s he doing?’ it is an undeniable behavior, clear to everybody.
- Humor and laughter help to live and manage a life that is increasingly complex and difficult.
They allow for the discovery of new solutions, new communicational synapses and new solutions to old problems.
There is a new beatitude that should be added to the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are those who know how to laugh at themselves because they will amuse themselves greatly.”
‘Laugh and you will know more about yourself’ the great Martial would say.
This helps us to recover viscerally what I define as the internal smile, the attitude of positive thought when confronting life. It creates a virtuous circle, a conditioned reflex. If I go on repeating to myself that mi unhappy … I’ll be unhappy!
Laughter and good humor create the virtuous circle mentioned above, in which laughter is followed by more laughter and thus a positive attitude towards life. Smile and the world smiles with you … it’s Columbus’s egg if you think about it! Why, then, is the world so full of ‘glum’ faces?
Start now! Make a big smile now: 3, 2, 1… ?