Issuu on Google+

Happily Ever Laughter: An Examination of the Social, Mental, and Physical Health Benefits of Laughter in Everyday Life

Alexandra Simon Honors Thesis Mr. Zontine May 10, 2013


2

Acknowledgements

I would gratefully like to acknowledge the enormous help and contributions given by Mr. Zontine, for my never-ending editing questions, and Mrs. Fields, for allowing me to work pretty much all day in the library; and thank you to Mark and Denise Simon for your never-ending support. -A.S.


3

Contents Introduction Part 1: Background- The Underpinnings of Laughter Laughter and the Brain Can You Say ‘ha-ha’?: Laughter as the Earliest Communication Laughter versus Humor Part 2: The Social Significance of Laughter The Beginnings of Laughter Nothing to Joke About: Pre-Laugh Comments Why Do We Laugh? The Dark Side to Laughter The Usage of Laughter to Increase Therapeutic and Familial Bonds The Contagion of Laughter Improving Education One Laugh at a Time Laughter in the Workplace Part 3: A Laugh a Day Keeps the Doctor Away Laughing Your way to a Healthier Life 1. Laughter as the Key to Mental Health 2. Welfare When in Doubt, Laugh it Out: Laughter as a Treatment Laughter as Treatment for Specific Illnesses 1. Cancer 2. Lung Transplant and Post-Stroke 3. Depression 4. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 5. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Conclusion Afterword Annotated Bibliography Picture Bibliography

4 5 6 8 9 11 12 15 17 19 20 23 24 26 30 31 31 33 35 39 39 40 41 42 42 43 44 46 53


4 Three guys walk into a bar… Every five minutes we laugh on average at least once, every hour we laugh up to 35 times, and every day up to 420 times (Doskoch). Simply by the numbers, it can be seen that laughter is a dominant aspect of daily life. However, the strangeness of laughter—both as a behavior and as a vocalization—is masked by its familiarity. Its significance, nevertheless, is both vital and potent; it is one of the two biggest communicative milestones in human development and often conveys meaning more effectively than words. Laughter is, essentially, another language that is universally understood and practiced. Though often most take it for granted and view it as an unconscious reaction to a humorous statement, life would be drastically worse off with its absence. Laughter delves much deeper than an involuntary reaction; think for a moment about your most cherished memories. Often, these recollections will include laughing, for it is in these moments of pure bliss that you are truly happy. However, it is not just happiness that laughter controls. It regulates the mental, everyday health of an individual that thereby maintains one’s healthy balance. Laughter also monitors and enhances several other elements in everyday life. It is, without a doubt, the quintessence of relationships—making the initial bond between two people. It has the ability to make people seem warm, authoritative, cooperative, ineffectual, or just plain annoying. Furthermore, its potential as a miracle drug to various diseases and illnesses is one that simply cannot be ignored. Laughter is a valuable, infinite tool that if exploited to its maximum potential could change our perspective medically and socially. Laughter is no longer just an audible expression that we take for granted, but rather it works to benefit a person socially, mentally, and physically—and that ain’t no joke!


5

Part 1: Background- The Underpinnings of Laughter


6 The Neurological Happenings behind Laughter In order to fully understand the various benefits of laughter, it is important to first comprehend the neurological happenings each time we begin to laugh. Unlike the expressions of other emotions, such as anger or fear, laughter does not involve just one specific area of the brain. Rather, laughter consists of emotional, cognitive, and motor functions (Brain). Research has, therefore, targeted the various areas of the brain that activate when one begins to laugh and has confirmed that four out of five of the brain’s main regions play a significant part (the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe, the sensory processing area in the occipital lobe, and a small section of the temporal lobe). Furthermore, both motor nerves and part of the limbic system are used (Kuwana). The cerebral cortex is the largest portion of the brain; both the left and right side are used during the act of laughing. The left side is what initiates the entire process, allowing the brain to analyze the words and structure of the humorous statement, and/or joke (Ramachandran). The right side is then used to actually comprehend the joke on an intellectual level. The cortex allows humans to understand what was said, observe the humorous quality to the statement, and perceive/analyze why it was funny. Moreover, the frontal lobe becomes extremely active during spouts of laughter (Fleming); it grants us the much needed memory of how to appropriately socially interact with others. Therefore, it reinforces when it is, and isn’t, appropriate to laugh from past experiences with humor. It, too, controls skilled muscle movement— regulating facial muscles when one begins to laugh (Kuwana). Subsequently, before a subject has had time to laugh, increased brain wave activity will rapidly move from the frontal lobe to the sensory processing area in the occipital lobe. The


7 occipital lobe maintains the cells that process visual signals (Roth). This allows one to pick up on the joke at hand and those laughing, or about to laugh, confirming that it is appropriate to laugh in the given instance (Fleming). The temporal lobe contains memories of intense feelings of mirth; scientists, consequently, suggest that “it is likely that mirth and the events that cause these feelings are stored in the same place within the brain” (Kuwana). In addition, it controls auditory skills. This allows for the individual to hear the laughter and/or joke and respond appropriately. Nevertheless, interestingly enough, studies have shown that those who are blind or deaf still have the ability to laugh as a baby (Ramachandran). This portrays that this subconscious response is very much like a natural instinct (Kuwana). The motor senses and parts of the limbic system play additional key roles in the process of laughter. The motor senses contain the most obvious use, signaling to the body to move the muscles of their face and to smile. The limbic system, on the other hand, adds to the emotional impact of the experience (Scott). The limbic system is known as one of the most primitive systems that mediate emotions. However, it is the amygdala and hippocampus in particular that play a potent role in the system in association with laughter (Fleming). The amygdala is a “limbic structure that acts to process ‘reflexive’ emotion,” such as fear or, in this case, laughter (Kuwana). The hippocampus, conversely, works to maintain both short-term and long-term memory. The combination of the two allow for an individual to react with laughter, and then in future situations associate previous laughter with memories (Roth). Additionally, though it still does not have the necessary amount of substantial evidence yet, it is believed that just as songbirds are constantly aware of avian melodies, humans have “specialized nerve cells that respond to laughter” (Kuwana). Scientists have suggested this through the observation that when other people are laughing, the brain activates its auditory


8 senses, but also immediately, the motor senses (Brain). This suggests that upon hearing laughter, one immediately begins to prepare to laugh too (Fleming). These discoveries concerning laughter and the brain are founded upon the serendipitous discovery during a surgery involving a girl named “A.K.” Published in a journal under the title of “Electric Current Stimulates Laughter,” doctors in 1998 discovered just how deeply related the brain and laughter are. It discusses the case of a sixteen-year-old girl named A.K, who desperately needed surgery to control seizures due to epilepsy. During the surgery’s procedure, the doctors “stimulated A.K.’s cerebral cortex in order to map her brain” (Kuwana). The doctors found that A.K. always laughed when they stimulated a small two centimeter-by two centimeter area on her left frontal gyrus (a part of the frontal lobe of the brain). This brain area is part of the supplementary motor area (Roth). However, what was specifically unusual was that the laughter that was produced by electrical stimulation in A.K. also brought forth a sense of cheeriness or mirth. Furthermore, each time her brain was stimulated, A.K. laughed incessantly and said that something was funny to her. What she said was causing her to laugh was different each time. Uniquely, A.K. would laugh first, and then made up a story that was funny to her (Roth). Before this discovery, many assumed that the process could only occur in the opposite format—hearing what was funny and then laughing. The discovery suggested that the brain played a larger role in laughter than originally thought. This, therefore, opened the doors to the growing understanding of the brain’s role in laughter today (Kuwana).


9 Can You Say ‘ha-ha’?: Laughter as the Earliest Communication These underpinnings of the neurological happenings of laughter act to not only provide a greater depth to the process of laughter, but work to emphasize how it is a subconscious, emotional response that rapidly occurs frequently and universally (Brain). Laughter is referred to as “a universal language of basic emotions that all humans share” (Kuwana). This being said, laughter is additionally the earliest onset form of communication throughout all cultures and countries. During strong emotional states, we naturally struggle to find words that adequately express our particular feelings of the moment—slowly developing this ability to do so as we grow older (Ramachandran). Therefore, when first born, babies look towards laughter as a way to express such strong emotion—“start[ing] to laugh at about 2-3 months of age” (Kuwana). Because laughter is one of the earliest forms of communication, research suggests laughter is a necessary element that we are automatically born with; scientists believe that we are born with laughter, as opposed to developing it, because it is vital in order to live and socially interact. Jaak Panksepp proves this further by stating that “there is something primitive and something psychologically sophisticated about human laughter: on the one hand, the stereotyped vocal patterns, which first appear in rudimentary form at 2 to 3 months of age, reflect an ancient heritage, whereas on the other hand, the subtleties of adult humor highlight how those primitive emotional processes interact with refined cognitions within higher reaches of the brain-mind” (Panksepp). Laughter versus Humor: What’s the Difference? Nonetheless, as scientists have delved into the research of laughter—whether gaining a basic understanding of what occurs in the brain or laughter as an instinct—many begin to find


10 that “one of the biggest methodological problems in the research on laughter is the failure to distinguish between humor and laughter” (Tierney). It is important to keep in mind when studying laughter that though the two are undoubtedly related, they are actually differing in qualities. Humor is “a construct,” while laughter is “a physiological event” (Tierney). While the effects of humor are cognitive (i.e. the recognition of some incongruity and perhaps an increase in perceived control), the effects of laughter are physical. Moreover, many distinguish the two by suggesting “humor is the stimulus, and laughter is one of several possible behavioral responses to that stimulus” (Tierney). When this distinction is made clear, it is easier to see that humor and laughter are distinct, although often intertwined, events. Humor can occur without laughter, and laughter can occur without humor, and that is a vital factor to keep in mind when studying the benefits of laughter (Tierney).


11

Part 2: The Social Significance of Laughter


12 The Beginnings of Laughter: The Philosophical and Theoretical Evolution to the Modern Research on Laughter The undeniable importance of laughter is accurately portrayed by the magnitude of the caliber of those who have previously sought to comprehend it—a group that includes, but is not limited to Plato, Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer, Sigmund Freud, and Henri Bergeson. Nevertheless, the true mystery behind the topic can be validated in the simple fact that it did not yield to the research of these highly respected intellects. Their theories and thoughts though have created the foundation for the first understandings of laughter, which have led to today’s current scientific exploration (Provine 23). The earliest ideas concerning laughter developed from the first efforts of selfcontemplation; thus, it started not from scientific discovery, but rather philosophy. Plato, whose work on laughter is the first surviving theory, feared “its power to disrupt the state” (Provine 33). In his Republic, Plato specifically discussed the negative consequences violent laughter can have when we submit ourselves to it. His opposition towards laughter went farther than just merely suggesting to avoid the action itself, but he, too, suggested that all readings remove the mention of gods or heroes laughing. In another one of Plato’s works, entitled Philebus, Plato suggests that what causes laughter is vice (Plato). Then our argument tells us, that when we laugh at what is ridiculous in friends, in introducing the element of pleasure into envy, we do in effect blend together this pleasure with pain; since it reminds us that it was some time ago agreed, that envy was a mental pain, and that laughing was a pleasure; and thus that these two feelings were produced in us together at those particular times (Plato). Plato, thus, notes that though laughter does allow a certain pleasure to emerge, it is a pleasure tied to envy and scorn. Plato furthered his argument by depicting that laughable people see


13 themselves as better looking physically and more intelligent than they really are. Notably, he compares laughter with pleasure and pain—stating that laughing is much like relieving an itch by scratching it. Just as one relieves an itch by scratching it, the pleasure laughter provides relieves the “pain associated with gloating over friends’ misfortune” ("The Role of Laughter”). Furthermore, Aristotle emphasized laughter as a malicious reaction to ignorance. Though the primary source of Aristotle’s writings on laughter has been lost, his opinions on the matter can be seen through indirect references in other works. Though Aristotle viewed laughter as a “subdivision of the ugly,” he differed from Plato because he believed that tasteful laughter in small amounts was a desirable thing (Kitano). However, he saw a peculiar darkness to laughter in its power to control, persuade, and discredit. Thomas Hobbes continued the study of laughter suggesting in his infamous Leviathan that laughter is the expression of “sudden glory arising from some sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly.” This perhaps acts as one of the best known quotes about laughter, for it suggests that it acts as a victory call to those he/she feels superior to (Hobbes). Just as social standards evolved, the opinions of laughter transformed as well; laughter had changed from a rude act of derision, to that of “affection arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing” (Kant). After the release of Immanuel Kant’s positive view on laughter, Arthur Schopenhauer created the Incongruity Theory. This theory stated that laughter rose from the perceived discrepancy between physical perception and an abstract representation. Detecting this incongruity resulted in a celebration, known as laughter (Wiseman). This can be seen when one laughs at various jokes that go against expectation. For example, take the following joke:


14 Two fish in a tank. One turns to the other and says: “Do you know how to drive this?” (Wiseman) The set up leads you to believe two fish are in a fish tank, but the punch line surprises the audience, because you soon realize that it was referencing an army tank. Our mind immediately realizes this, resolves the incongruity caused by the punch line, and emits a sudden feeling of surprise—resulting in laughter (Wiseman). However, Freud has a more factual outlook on laughter—depicting in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious that all laughter-evoking situations are pleasing because they create and store psychic energy. Freud views laughter as something much more significant than just a reaction to a joke; rather, he believes laughter to be a key to the unconscious (Provine 37). With research beginning on the scientific effects of laughter, Henri Bergeson took a different route, putting forth the idea that laughter was inherently a social mechanism. To him, laughter loses its meaning and presence outside of a group, a position that is still well-supported today. Interestingly, Bergeson also creates a fundamental principle of laughter through the observation that for something to be funny it must be human. Even when laughing at an animal or inanimate object, it is because it reminds us of something human ("The Role of Laughter”). In contrast to the years of philosophical analysis, the history of empirically scientific based research has only been studied for a mere 100 years—Norman Cousin’s book, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient, on how laughter treated the incurable acting as a powerful catalysis to the research (Kuwana). However, it is the mixture of the philosophical and scientific studies that have led to the modern day understanding of laughter that is still continuing to expand. This is because by fully comprehending the significant part that laughter plays in the universal culture, one is able to perceive the true power that laughter contains (Provine 134).


15 Nothing to Joke About: Pre-laugh Comments and Laughter’s Placement in Everyday Speech Despite the contrasting opinions on laughter within history, the significant relationship between laughter and speech has been a common thread between the varying views. Today, a consistent pattern has been established through the work of repeated observation. During conversation, laughter by the speakers almost always follows complete statements or questions. It, thus, has been suggested that laughter is not randomly scattered throughout the speech stream (O’Conell and Kowall 40). For example, a person who states, “How have you been” would not likely say, “How have you…ha-ha…been?” Rather, the speaker regularly uses laughter to end his/her statement. This orderly relationship is “akin to punctuation in written communication and is termed the punctuation effect” (Provine 44). Given the theory that laughter punctuates speech, it is thereby reasonable to question what type of punctuation laughter signifies—a question mark, period, exclamation, or something different entirely (O’Conell and Kowal 41). Nevertheless, though laughter is present within the natural flow of conversation, it is not an exclusive consequence of a particular comment. People seemingly laugh after both questions and statements, leading scientists to believe that laughter surpasses the common expectations of punctuation (Givens). Master comedians, too, are aware of this usage of the punctuation effect, depicting that the presentation of the joke is equally as important of the joke itself (in particular noting the pause at the end of the punch line) (Cackler). Therefore, laughter’s role as verbal punctuation not only acts to maintain the natural rhythm in conversation, but also creates the “emotional tone and the speaker’s intentions.” Additionally, this is suggested as a reason why it is more difficult to interpret the meaning of written communication because it is missing “emotional clues about the sender’s tone,” such as laughter (Kuwana).


16 After observing the placement of laughter in speech, it is also highly notable to understand its content. It is safe to say most assume that laughter occurs at the end of a humorous statement; however, according to several studies, people generally laugh not after a joke, but rather after “innocuous lines” (Stafford). In fact, “although we do laugh at jokes and funny movies, 80% of our laughter occurs during everyday comments in everyday social situations” (Kuwana). In an experiment performed by Dr. Robert Provine, it was discovered that out of 1,200 conversations, only “about 10 to 20 percent of pre-laugh comments were estimated to be even vaguely humorous” (Provine 52). It was found that we laugh at nothing that even resembles a joke, story, or anything remotely attempting at humor. Below is a table compiled by Dr. Robert Provine of most typical comments that resulted in laughter. TABLE 1 25 Typical Pre-laugh Comments Typical Statements

Typical Questions

I’ll see you guys later. Put those cigarettes away. I hope we all do well. It was nice meeting you too. We can handle this. I see your point. I should do that, but I’m too lazy. I try to lead a normal life. I think I’m done. I told you so! I was completely horrified! There you go! I know! Must be nice! Look, it’s Andre!

It wasn’t you? Does anyone have a rubber band? Oh, Tracey, what’s wrong with us? Can I join you? How are you? Are you sure? Do you want one of mine? What can I say? Why are you telling me this? What is that supposed to mean?


17

As the comments in the table portray, most laughter is not a response to jokes or other formal attempts at humor. This, therefore, forces a reevaluation of what laughter signifies and what is means. Laughter is, indeed, the quintessential social signal, and no longer is it believed that laughter is just an aid to conversation, but rather the key to successful relationships (Cackler). Why do we laugh? The Social Significance behind Laughter Human societies treasure laughter and consequently, whatever is able to produce it. Without the presence of laughter, life would become undeniably drab and would seem hardly human. It is, perhaps, this high value that has been placed upon laughter and its stimuli that has caused a chaotic path towards the comprehension of the subject matter. However through dutiful observation, scientists have been able to discover why we laugh and the potent role it plays in everyday socialization (Cackler). Many automatically assume that laughter is a reaction to a humorous statement that our body does subconsciously—much like blinking or flinching. Though this technically appears to be true, the purpose of laughter delves much deeper than a basic response. The workings of laughter can be understood through the experiment staged by leading scientist, Dr. Robert Provine. He, wanting to gain knowledge on the topic, began an experiment by inviting individuals into his laboratory and entertained them with audio and video recordings of comedy performances. Provine quickly found that his comic virtuosi would only elicit reluctant chuckles from the subjects. Why is it that though he was surrounded by laughing people, they would go stone sober when brought into the experiment? The answer lies in the fact that the subjects were


18 alone; the subjects displayed that laughter is a social behavior that “virtually disappears in isolated people being scrutinized in a laboratory setting” (Provine 55). Thus, laughter is a way of social bonding. Both laughing and talking are principally auditory signals, functioning in light or darkness and around any physical barriers. Smiling, in contrast, is a visual signal that needs eye-to-eye, visual contact between the recipient and the smiling face of the sender. Therefore, despite the fact that “laughter [is] our earliest form of communication,” talking was the first to automatically be studied because its role in communication is more obvious and unquestioned (Philby). However, it is believed that laughter plays an equally important role; this is portrayed in an experiment performed by the undergraduate students at the University of Maryland. When asked to record their activity, they soon discovered, upon examination, that when alone the solitary subject is most likely to talk, followed by their likelihood to smile, and then to laugh was in a distant third place. This suggests that there is a striking sociality to laughter; the experiment’s conclusion, too, supported this, for the students were “about 30 times more likely to laugh in the presence of others than alone” (Moskowitz). Laughter disappeared altogether amongst subjects not exposed to media stimulation, supporting the idea that laughter is generally only performed when with other people—in social situations. This also explains why nitrous oxide (laughing gas) “won’t crack you up when inhaled in solitude” (Welsh); laughter is, consequently, the only auditory communication that one generally only performs when with people. If this is the case, then why do people laugh? The purpose of laughter has been concluded to not be a reaction to humor, but rather a form of instinctive social bonding that humor is crafted


19 to thereby exploit. Laughter, thus, is a social act involving companions that play a vital role in bonding by solidifying friendships and “pulling people into the fold.” You generally define your ‘friends’ as those with whom you laugh with, and therefore, laughing with a group of people increases our sense of “belonging and social cohesion” (Doskotch). It is an intensely social emotion that conveys the message that we are playing, and through the increased sense of social unity, it breaks down boundaries and makes relationships more intimate. It helps to create and maintain these social bonds and shows to people that we relate to them, we are like them, and we agree with them (Winerman). This, too, works to emphasize why laughter has remained within human evolution; laughter universally brings human groups together. Though one of the most primitive functions, it is one of the most consistently significant social mechanisms (Provine 61). The Dark Side to Laughter: Derisive Laughter This ‘dark side’ to laughter is seemingly why philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, originally opposed laughter. All too often, derisive laughter is used as a type of social scorn, becoming “a psychological tool for teasing and taunting” (Panksepp). This establishment of exclusive group identities through the use of laughter sets the stage for finding mirth and enjoyment from the misfortunes of other people. Additionally, it is utilized to exhibits one’s disdain towards another and consequently ostracizing that individual. Laughter scorns the victim, while bonding/feeding the wrath of the provoker. Moreover, on a more massive scale, laughter is generally seen to accompany robbing, killing, or raping. This type of laughter is called “sardonic laughter,” a relatively new field of study (Provine 63). Though there is little detail known on the subject currently, what is known is that in the extreme cases, those raping or killing reach such a high in mirth that laughter is the


20 resulting outcome (Provine 63). Certainly, that drastic version of sardonic laughter only occurs among a rare few; however, laughter is commonly seen in the school systems and the daily lives of many as a tool to poke fun at and at times bully others. As a valuable social skill, it can be manipulated to assert superiority over others by laughing at those they see as inferior. Therefore, though laughter is a powerful tool with infinite benefits, it has the potential to be used spitefully as well (Welsh). The Usage of Laughter to Increase Therapeutic and Familial Relationships Though it has been depicted that laughter plays a potent role in everyday conversation— be it with friends or family—laughter, too, has a remarkable ability to heal relationships that are troubled and or make them stronger. In human culture, societies most frequently experience these relationship troubles within their own family; parents worry about how to raise their child, while the children begin to grow and seek further independence. Thus, many believe the key to positive parenting to be “all about the connection we have with our children” (“The Benefits of Laughter”). Today especially, home environments struggle with the staggering divorce rate and overpowering increase in technology; however, though these work to “sever family bonds, many families find laughter to be the tie that binds.” This is because laughter, the world’s most inexpensive glue, is a powerful tool that strengthens the connection between family members, makes them more in tune with each other, and helps hold the family together (Holmstrom). Consequently, behaviorists insist that it is vital that any healing strategy for troubled families include increasing laughter in daily life. On account of this, families must make the deliberate effort to have events and conversations full of laughter regularly (“7 Benefits of Laughter”), for families of various cultures have “nurtured several generations of closeness because of fond memories rooted in laughter” (Holmstrom).


21 Furthermore, laughter is utilized to quickly develop a stronger connection in the relationship between a therapist and his/her client. Many therapists regard laughter as a valuable, efficient vehicle that has helped their clients progress effectively in handling “personal, social, and emotional problems” (Holmstrom). Laughter, when used correctly, leads to an undeniable sense of rapport that proves useful in therapy. This is because laughter usually occurs in environments of comfort and among a group of friends. Moreover, typical laughing sessions are noteworthy for the warm feelings, goodwill, and most importantly, freedom of “spontaneous self-expression” (Berry). When one is able to create such circumstances during psychotherapy sessions, it is extremely likely that the client will contain no hesitation to communicate their thoughts both freely and frankly (Montagu 135). This enhances the feeling of catharsis, a main goal of therapy. Cathartic techniques allow clinicians to help clients access their stored, pent-up emotions and release them. Theoretically, the more catharsis the client experiences, the faster she/he will move through the healing process. Though often crying is seen as the most valuable form of catharsis, interestingly “laughter is perhaps the most important because it releases three emotions— fear/anxiety, anger, and boredom” (Junkins). Laughter takes care of several painful feelings—the first being, fear and anxiety. These emotions are generally seen in survivors, who after said trauma find that they are always afraid. Their memories and much of life now terrify and intimidate them. However, laughter is able to diminish fear and release it into a healthy state. In addition to fear, laughter releases light anger and indirectly aids ridding of deeper anger too (Goodheart 120). It does so by allowing one “to shed the lighter aspects of fear and anger, which can then open access to deep rage” (Montagu 153). Laughter is one of the most appropriate way’s to approach angry feelings because anger is


22 usually repressed by fear; therefore, laughter can dually release fear and then anger. Laughter, moreover, is a much more moderate way to address anger and vital towards releasing it (Junkins). Laughter catharsis is key to recovering from past trauma, or simply understanding it. Undoubtedly, laughter catharsis does not change the facts, but it does change the way one relates to the facts. It permits a person to gain a new perspective on a terrible situation, allowing moving on to seem possible. Laughter allows survivors to remember, to feel, and to explore without fearing that they will once more be trapped by circumstances beyond their control. Life’s most tragic and bizarre occurrences contain things which may strike one as personally absurd if one is able to look for them and the absurd is often a trigger point for laughter. Underneath the layers of unresolved pain, there is the child who possesses a strong biological drive toward joy and with the capacity for it, even with the capacity to generate it for itself (Montagu 153). Therefore, all that prevents the survivor from being joyful once again is the release of the pain layered on top. Laughter provides that release in a pleasurable way. Partnered with crying and rage release, laughter peels away the pain, allowing one to feel the joy beneath (Goodheart 123). On the other hand, laughter is also seen to stimulate new ways of “perceiving and understanding one’s attitudes and behavior” (Dahlmeyer and Diehl-Lelyveld). If one is able to create joint laughter between the client and therapist, it too will lead the client to undertake beneficial behavioral changes (Holmstrom). The process of inserting laughter into therapy sessions repeatedly can be done by introducing playful situations that stimulate laughter. The first anticipated behavioral change observed will be a relief in nervous tension and depressed feelings. From there, enhanced communication will ensue. Therefore, by joining laughter with


23 psychotherapy, “useful ways of dealing with the problems of everyday living may be discovered” (Berry). Clients will, consequently, grow wiser in our behavioral decisions as they learn alternative ways of understanding their experiences (Dahlmeyer and Diehl-Lelyveld). The Contagion of Laughter Laughter can not only be manipulated to create a more powerful application in strengthening relationship, but also plays a significant role in behavioral chain reactions. The saying by Ella Wilcox, “Laugh and the world laughs with you” suggests this remarkable property of human laughter—it’s contagion. Upon hearing laughter, we have an instinctual response to laugh in return, creating this chain reaction that will subsequently sweep throughout a group. The contagious laugh response is “immediate and involuntary, involving the most direct communication between people—brain to brain” (Provine 140). Contagious laughter strips away the surface of culture and language and challenges the idea that we are conscious of our behavior. It is through this uncontrollable act that we are able to observe the powerful display of human group behavior (Thompson). The most renowned example of contagious laughter occurred in modern day Tanzania in Central Africa in 1962. It began in a boarding school for girls between the ages of 12 and 18; three girls began laughing on January 30, and the symptoms of laughing and crying spread to 95 of the 159 students (Price). The school had to soon close on March 18 because of the incessant laughter. Individual laugh attacks lasted several hours and recurred approximately four times a day; it, too, would last up to 16 days at a time. In what seems like a ludicrous epidemic, around two hundred seventeen villagers were affected near the laughter contagion’s conclusion (Provine 141).


24 However, this idea of being able to cause a continuous chain of laughter through the sound of laughter itself has been brought to the media industry; television comedy shows use laugh tracks, laugh records, and laugh boxes to invoke laughter from the audience (Kuwana). Where did it all begin? The Hank McCune Show used the first laugh track in 1950 to compensate for not having a live audience while filming. Though the show itself ended that same year, the innovation behind the laugh tracks flourished (Thompson). Compared to that of plays and live comedy shows, television completely breaks the interactive link between the audience and actors; thus, laugh tracks attempts to reconnect actors and the audience (Thompson). Many scrutinize laugh tracks for hopelessly trying to make a poorly written script sound funny. Nonetheless, Sylvester Weaver, former president of NBC, explains it best when he stated that “Laughter is a community experience and not an individual one. No one likes to laugh alone and when you sit in your own living room, an honestly made laugh track can project you right into the audience, with the best seat in the house, to enjoy the fun” (Provine 143) Improving Education One Laugh at a Time Though undoubtedly a widespread contagion of laughter, as seen in the school in India, proved to be a large barrier for the school system, laughter can conversely play a vital role in learning. If maximized, laughter has the potential to increase concentration, build necessary emotional intelligence, strengthen one’s ability to handle academic pressure, and create an optimal learning environment (Stambor). Due to the huge leap in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, children now more than ever are struggling to concentrate during class (Stambor). However, laughter proves to be an easy fix, for an extended hearty laugh improves blood circulation and “flushes the lungs of stale residual air” ("Laughter In Schools And the World Of


25 Education”). This automatically increases concentration power, which consequently, would enhance learning ability and academic performance (Stambor). Additionally, in social play, notably more so with children, laughter is critical to the development of social skills and emotional intelligence. Those with a deprivation of laughter are seen to be deficient in social skills which can lead to life-long physical, mental, emotional, social issues. Laughter promotes this potent childlike, playful behavior needed while growing up ("Laughter In Schools And the World Of Education”). Even adults who maintain a playful attitude continue to learn social skills and improve their emotional intelligence. Learning requires “that one lower what linguists call the ‘affective barrier’” (Stambor). Those who are uptight are limited to the quantity that they are able to learn. Therefore, you have to ease up and laugh to create (“Use Laughter to Enhance Your Life and Work"). A severe problem that students undergo as they pass through the various educational systems is the weight of academic pressure and anxiety (Stambor). Schools have turned into the means by which peers compete for future success, and thus, students from an early age are being pressured to attain excellent grades with the hope that this will one day lead them to a successful life ("Laughter In Schools And the World Of Education”). Moreover, many children are receiving additional pressure by their parents—pressure that “often leads children to strive for unrealistic goals which, as they get unfulfilled, can bring on serious stress and prove detrimental to their mental and physical health” (Stambor). However, as they learn to laugh unconditionally, children become more adept at handling pressure due to the fact that laughter builds “selfconfidence and the ability to handle stress by boosting the immune system and releasing endorphins in the brain” which kick start good feelings and eliminate the high levels of stress ("Use Laughter to Enhance Your Life and Work").


26 With laughter present in the classroom, students are better able to enjoy the presence of an optimal learning environment. Though research has supported and explained the various ways laughter benefits the students academically, it is key to use laughter as a tool to enhance the material “by tapping into students' multiple intelligences and learning styles in a way that forces them to think in divergent and real-life ways” ("Use Laughter to Enhance Your Life and Work"). For example, by presenting a situation that will induce laughter, the students will merge both their emotional intelligence and cognitive intelligence. This will allow students to think differently and in a new viewpoint than what they normally would (Stambor). Furthermore, laughter must be used to compliment and not distract from the lesson itself. Suggestions of how this can be done is by making your syllabus funny, utilizing real/hypothetical humorous situations, asking punch-line questions during question and answer discussions, creating outrageous examples, and/or dramatizing your material ("Laughter In Schools And the World Of Education”). By adding these elements into daily life within the classroom, not only will attention during the class increase, but also the lasting memory of what was taught (Stambor). Laughter in the Workplace Not only can laughter aid the classroom setting, but also is directly correlated to the success of one’s career. Laughter, itself, is directly correlated with success. Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get (Winerman). No matter where you are socially or economically, laughter can help you succeed. Though it isn’t the panacea for financial problems or social awkwardness, it can help you see your financial issues in a new perspective and “be the social lubricant that warms up your personal relationships” (Peter and


27 Dana 15). Therefore, no matter what your occupation might be—doctor, lawyer, mailman, businessman—and no matter what level you work at within your particular career, the energy of laughter can automatically improve your job. It improves communication, motivation, and difficult problem solving (Tierney). Laughter opens the pathway for effective communication with co-workers or others in the same job or profession because it acts as a common ground (Tierney). Politics, religion, and taste could potentially have conflicting results, but sharing a laugh about your work is an opportunity to bond over similar experiences (Winerman). Laughing improves interaction among workers on both a daily and long term basis—resulting in the creation of an environment in which “feelings can be communicated and exchanged” (Tierney). Additionally, by showing that one is willing to laugh at oneself, you can avoid creating the negative impression of being pompous; ergo, it is suggested that to allow for easy communication amongst co-workers, telling humorous stories about your own mistakes is a subtle method to generate good feelings and respect. For instance, if you were to encounter the following two people of equal skill set at your work, who would befriend? Would you prefer the person who maintains a serious, respectable attitude towards work at all points or the person, who works equally as hard, yet is also able to laugh at his/her mistakes? Most would choose the latter option, and scientists believe that laughter is the main factor that leads you to make that choice (Welsh). Studies have shown specifically that laughter groups naturally “lead to vicarious experiences of success, as group members observe others achieving the benefits of laughter” (Winerman). This is because when laughing in a group, there is a strong social component within that facilitates a safe environment by discouraging any negative behavior. This social bonding is predicted based on what has been defined as “the ‘open-loop’ nature of the brain’s


28 emotional centers, the limbic system,� which states that humans absorb the energy in the surrounding environment (Cackler). With better communication, there will be a greater rate of productivity and general job satisfaction—two key components to a successful career (Peter and Dana 26). The figure on the following page demonstrates the variety of effects that laughter has on your life, and consequently, the workplace. As portrayed, laughter enhances your productivity, by increasing energy and attention span, but also expands collaboration and team building.


29

Laughter, too, demonstrates social dominance and power in a career’s hierarchy. An experiment performed by Dr. Phillip Glenn proved that people who initiate laughter are “in a position of social power� (Tierney). He examined job interview recordings of 150 college students and found that when the interviewer laughed, the interviewee would generally laugh along. The interviewee rarely began the laughter and consequently, it is used as an implied signal of social superiority. However, at the same time laughter is a strong tool to use in an


30 interview to build rapport. Interviewees who responded to the interviewer with laughter appropriately were largely more successful and acquired the job over those who acted otherwise (Peter and Dana 28). Moreover, your actual success at accomplishing tasks at hand will improve if you incorporate laughter into everyday life. Your brain at positive is “31% more productive than at negative, neutral, or stressed.” You, too, are a staggering 37% better at sales as a result (Peter and Dana 28). The explanation for the sudden career and emotional boost is because of dopamine, which floods into your system when you are positive. It has two main functions: it makes you happier, and it turns on all the “learning centers” in your brain to allow you to adapt to the world in a different way (Winerman). It is, therefore, that more laughter in your work makes for good business (Cackler).


31

Part 3: A Laugh a Day Keeps the Doctor Away


32 Laughing Your Way to a Healthier Life Today, print and broadcast reporters are encouraging our enthusiasm for medicinal laughter through the generally upbeat and, at times, frothy stories that heartedly endorse laughter with tentative hypotheses that many hope to be true upon reading. However, what goes unsaid in each of these reports is a fundamental and perhaps even jarring truth about laughter: “Laughter no more evolved to make us feel good or improve our health than walking evolved to promote cardiovascular fitness” (Cackler). Therefore, the idea that laughter is a panacea for the body and soul has become so pervasive that we cease to forget for a moment that laughter has evolved because of “its effect on others” and not as a medicine (Doskoch). Nevertheless, though laughter’s original purpose did not have the intention to improve mood or health, does this mean that a ready laugh cannot also have the potential to make certain of a longer and better life? Through consistent research and examination, it seems that laughter delves much deeper into the health of a person than one originally assumes (Provine 109). In truth, laughter can be concentrated on achieving positive wellness by aiding not only your body in terms of illness of health, but to your whole being, from physical, mental, and emotional points of view (Cackler). Laughter as the Key to Mental Health Laughter plays a significant role in maintaining and enhancing everyday happiness, behavior, and mental wellness. Nothing works faster, more dependably, or cheaper to bring your mind back into balance than that of a good laugh (Provine 156). It lightens your burdens, inspires hope, and keeps you grounded; with so much power to heal and renew the mind, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is tremendously resourceful for dealing with emotional health. At its most basic level, laughter makes you feel good (Cackler). This good feeling that


33 you get from a laugh remains with you even after the laugh has subsided, granting you with a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss—making laughter the ideal medicine (Welsh). It generates positive emotions about yourself and the world around you that give you the much needed confidence and optimistic perspective. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the most “obvious effect of laughter is on mood. After all, with even the most intellectual brands of humor, laughter is ultimately an expression of emotion—joy, surprise, nervousness, amusement” (Doskotch). Laughter, moreover, can help you feel better about yourself and the world around you. Laughter can be a natural, healthy diversion, for “when you laugh, no other thought comes to mind” ("Laughter Therapy"). Consequently, laughter can play a significant role in reducing anxiety. Laughter’s ability to cause the muscles to go suddenly limp allows for a reduction in stress (Cackler). It is, essentially, impossible to be anxious when the muscles are in such a deep state of relaxation. By using laughter as a tool to reduce stress it contributes “not only to physical well-being but to finding the cause of emotional problems, because an individual is able to explore his/her sources of distress” (Welsh). Furthermore, though there are a variety of other methods to reducing stress, laughter arguably has additional benefits that no other remedy can create; laughter, once reducing tensions, provides an outlet for otherwise “unacceptable feelings, behaviors, and impulses by facilitating talking about conflicts or emotions in a safe, nonthreatening way” (Winerman). Just as laughter is able to create a new environment, it too can provide a person with a new perspective and way of thinking. Laughter helps us to think more creatively. It is noted and well-believed that “laughter loosens up the mental gears. It encourages out-of-theordinary ways of looking at things” (Doskotch). Most often, people live in the future, in the stress of the arrival of various deadlines, and


34 in a constant planning period. However, laughter puts you in the moment, causing you to make take a break from the future to live in the present—even if just for a moment (Provine 158). It, too, allows you to make a terrible situation more tolerable by inducing such positive emotions. On the other hand, it also works conversely—though it adds positive emotion, it also rids of any negative feelings. It does so by diffusing the three most painful emotions—fear, anger, and boredom—by releasing them (“7 Benefits of Laughter”). Though one might automatically be hesitant to believe that laughter can have a large-scale effect on one’s mindset, studies have shown otherwise. Intriguingly enough, those who laugh frequently are more likely to become organ donors because of the hopeful mindset they have established for themselves (Stafford). As a result, laughter can quite literally save a life. Though certainly there remains a socially appropriate time and place for laughter, it appears that we have put restrictive boundaries on the possibilities that it has. Though you can’t force real laughter, it must be allowed to happen. You have the “best insurance available when you have learned to laugh at life” (Peter and Dana 57). Welfare: A Laugh a Day keeps the Doctor Away To maintain a healthy lifestyle, one must be able to enhance their daily wellness and everyday fitness to the optimum condition (Winerman). Laughter is beginning to become a large factor in maintaining such a healthy lifestyle; in fact, laughter’s effect on the body has created a new field of study called gelotology (Welsh). It has been revealed that laughter benefits life longevity, blood pressure, the cardiovascular system, the immune system, muscle tension, life longevity, blood pressure, and reduces food cravings. The typical laughter experience involves a kind of potent, body-wide act that can be compared to that of an “internal jog” (Doskotch). During a vigorous laugh, people generally share similar actions; we “take a deep breath, throw back our head, stretch muscles of the face, jaw, throat, diaphragm, chest, abdomen, neck, back,


35 and sometimes the limbs, and exhale in explosive, chopped ‘ha-ha-ha’s” (Provine 156). This cycle is then continuously repeated. Therefore, it seems incredibly logical that laughter would provide physical benefits. Pioneer laugh researcher William Fry too saw this potential of medical mirth, and conducted a notable experiment. He found that it took “10 minutes of rowing on his home exercise machine to reach the heart rare produced by one minute of hearty laughter” (Peter and Dana 62). Also significant, some exuberant laughter produced heart rates over 120 beats per minute for intervals over three minutes. Not only does laughter, as a result, produce an exercise-like effect the heart itself, but also benefits the entire cardiovascular system (Welsh). This is because the deep breathes taken while laugh also increases the amount of oxygen in the blood (Winerman). A notable study that looked into the effects laughter has on the cardiovascular system was performed by Dr. William Fry, a Stanford researcher. He and his research group documented the significant correlation between laughter and the cardiovascular system, after observing that negative emotions are highly related to cardiac risk. Through much research, they found that laughing stimulates the “release of beta endorphins in the brain, which in turn bind with opiate receptors” (Welsh). These receptors are seen on the surface of veins and arteries throughout the body; their purpose is to release nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels. Though laughing does cure cardiac troubles, “America’s number one and three killers, heart attacks and strokes, often result from blood clots” (Cackler). Therefore, laughing could potentially be the difference between live or death. Furthermore, starting in 1985, studies begin to suggest that comedy and a person’s ability to use laughter to deal with daily events boosted antibody (S-IgA) levels. It was already known


36 that daily hassles were associated with low S-IgA levels; thus, laughter seemingly promises a “healthful antidote to life’s miseries” (Provine 167). In particular, an experiment conducted by Arthur Stone and his colleagues conducted daily saliva samples and questionnaires from subjects over a 12-week period. It was found that high saliva antibody levels heavily correlated with positive leisure and most significantly laughter. On the other hand, the low levels were associated with negative work experiences and a day with little to no laughter. It was concluded that for the highest antibody levels and perhaps even the best health, one must laugh often (and avoid fights with your boss) (Peter and Dana 63). Laughter’s effects on immunity are not strictly limited to S-IgA levels. Leading scientist, Lee Berk, reports that laughter-related defense increases in the immune system and also expands function, including the lymphocyte blastogenesis, which constitute one quarter of a person’s white blood cells, and natural killer-cell activity (Provine 171). This is due to the “eustress (desirable stress)” of laughter that lifts the immunosuppressive effects of stress hormones. Laughter can also produce beneficial physiological results, benefiting the circulatory system. It exercises the lungs and causes full action of the diaphragm, the main muscle of respiration (Peter and Dana 66). When in Doubt, Laugh it Out: Laughter as a Treatment In this age of high-technology, scientific miracles and medical breakthroughs, it just might be that something as simple as laughter is the best medicine. For many years, medical doctors have known that happy patients generally respond more favorably to treatment and recover faster than that of cheerless ones (Provine 112). Therefore, it comes to no surprise that evidence too supports that laughter, confidence, and hope have significant therapeutic value,


37 whereas sadness, fear, and despondency tend to produce negative outcomes. Often the cures attributed to humor are grouped along with mystical treatments and healing miracles; however, it is because of this that we commonly underestimate the power of laughter (Doskotch) Laughter is generally a difficult topic to analyze in the laboratory, leaving the research to date to be more limited than other scientific endeavors (Welsh). Examination of the available studies, though, portray that the physical improvements of laughter have a firm scientific bases. Dr. William F. Fry, Jr., M.D., an associate clinical professor at Stanford University Medical School, after studying the effects of laughter on health for twenty-five years, states, “without realizing it, day to day laughter may be making a significant contribution to our physical wellbeing” (Provine 108). One of the most famous cases that display laughter as a serious tool to combat illness is that of Norman Cousins. His bestselling book, Anatomy of an Illness, As Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration, tells of his miraculous recovery from “a serious collagen disease, a disorder of the connective tissue” (Doskotch). The prognosis for recovery was little to none; thus, he decided to take charge of his treatment by creating a form of laughter therapy. He noted that “one ten-minute interlude of laughter produced two hours of painless sleep” (Doskotch). It was also shown that each laughter session reduced inflammation cumulatively. After this cheerful routine of laughter, his well-being was gradually restored; ergo, Norman Cousins has, for more than fifteen years, restored and maintained good health and the theory that laughter is a miracle drug (Provine 110). Since the miraculous recovery of Norman Cousin through laughter, its therapeutic value has been studied more and more in depth (Provine 110). Madan Kataria of Bombay, India is


38 taking the possible exercise and therapeutic potential of laughter extraordinarily seriously. He has popularized an ancient yoga breathing exercise based on laughter, transforming it into a thriving enterprise—Laughter Clubs International (Winerman). The club started as simply an exchange of jokes and stories to cause laughter; however, both the quality and quantity of such jokes quickly declined. It is, thus, that he discovered you are able to dispense with the jokes, for the essence of the benefits lied in the act of laughter itself. Consequently, by simply laughing, soon everyone would join in in the “chorus of contagious laughter” (Welsh). After beginning with a warm-up in unison, the group moves on to several variations with the mouth open and closed. Followers of this successful practice seek lowered blood pressure, enhanced respiratory functions, and general fitness (Welsh). The booming success of the Laughter Club International—in part due to the fact that it was the most readily available, easy, and fun form of exercise offered—was confirmed with the numerous reports and confirmations of the successful effects it seemed to be happening on the lives of thousands (Winerman). It is from there that the power of laughter was exploited further, pondering that if laughter could be utilized to enhance daily health that perhaps it, too, could be used therapeutically (Welsh). Thus, laughter yoga was created; participants follow the leader through various exercises—much like one would in the typical yoga session. However, moves in laughter yoga include putting their fingertips on their cheekbones, chest, or lower abdomen while making stereotypical laughter noises like ‘ha ha’ or ‘hee hee.’ They do so until they feel vibrations through their entire body (Doskotch). Though this will not absolve all stresses or cure an illness, it is believed that it “improves the quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses” (Provine 114). More specifically, it enhances oxygen intake, stimulates the heart and lungs, relaxes the body muscles, triggers the release of endorphins, eases digestion, relieves pain,


39 balances blood pressure, and improves mental functions. Rigorous schedules of laughter therapy have shown that it helps to greatly improve the general sense of well-being and sleep (“7 Benefits of Laughter”). Therapeutic laughter certainly has the ability to change the health situation of a person who is chronically ill (Tierney). Nevertheless, can we completely laugh away the pain? The ability to use laughter to control pain is an idea that doctors have experimented with for years. Pain depends upon one’s perception—influenced by a variety of psychological strategies. Laughter, therefore, can control pain in four main ways: “by distracting attention, by reducing tension, by changing expectations, and by increasing production of endorphins” ("7 Benefits of Laughter”). Aches and pains can worsen and be intensified if attention is given to them. By drawing attention away from the pain, an effect best compared to anesthesia can be regulated; a laughing person, even if just for a moment, is not paying attention to the discomfort they are experiencing (Provine 89). Furthermore, laughter reduces muscle tension, and often an injury causes the muscle to unconsciously tense around the affected area, which causes increased pain. Thus, because laughter relaxes the muscles, it, thereby, reduces pain (Doskotch). Moreover, an individual’s general outlook toward life is related to pain sensitivity. Positive expectations and attitude appear to be related to pain tolerance. Lastly, “recent and encouraging evidence suggests that laughter may directly attack the pain associated with inflammatory conditions” ("7 Benefits of Laughter”). Being able to reduce pain may seem like a small obstacle in the battle against a disease, illness, or critical injury, but Dr. David Bresler, director of the University of California at Los Angeles Pain Control Unit, depicts that “pain is the most common, expensive, and disabling disorder in the United States” that often is known to also lead to depression (Doskotch).


40 Laughter, too, is able to provide miraculous results in one’s recovery ability, essentially what many seek through years of therapy. Within the notable book, A Surgeon’s Book of Hope, by Dr. William A. Nolen, he describes how patients with poor prognosis were able to make remarkable recoveries (Givens). The book attempts to discover the reasoning behind why some people live, while others, who perhaps even have a better shot at recovery, do not. Nolen concludes that “much of what determine the outcome of an illness is beyond the understanding and control of the physician,” but rather relies much on the attitude of the patient (Tierney). Furthermore, Dr. Raymond Moody supports this by suggesting through the examination of several case studies that “when a doctor dispenses laughter to a patient, he increases the quality of the patient’s life” (Provine 117). Certainly doctors should not immediately become comedians and throw aside all medical practices, but instead, it is widely suggested that at the very least, they should abandon some of their professional solemnity and encourage laughter in patients. This is a small change that can be made that has the potential to create largely successful results. Moody, in particular, recommends that laughter shouldn’t replace traditional medical techniques, but it is vital that they supplement the techniques (Doskotch). Laughter as a Treatment for Specific Illnesses Cancer Despite previous skepticism, laughter is now seen as a plausible treatment to many diseases. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in particular uses the integrative approach of a laughter regime to fight cancer (Stafford). Dr. Katherin Puckett, the National Director of Mind-Body Medicine, created the laughter program for the organization—suggesting that it helps “cancer patients and their families use and enjoy laughter as a tool for healing”


41 (Givens). However, notably the key is to view laughter as not related to jokes or humor, but rather as a physical exercise. Dr. Puckett observes that even those who do not intend to laugh in the room are laughing by the end of the exercise, simply because of the contagious quality of laughter (Tierney). To determine its effectiveness, Dr. Puckett looks to the responses of the patients; comments vary from stating that they “didn’t even think about cancer” to depicting that the laughter “session makes them feel better [and that they] feel healthy when [they] laugh” (Givens). Though one might be hesitant to leave the palpability of modern medicine behind for the abstract concept of laughter, laughter at the very least helps cancer patients focus on living, instead of dying. Struggling with the challenge of having a positive mentality despite the troubles presented by cancer is one of the biggest struggles of a patient. Laughter offers empowerment and a therapeutic opportunity by taking control of your mindset. Nelsen explains that each laughter session “you’re taking control, you’re saying it’s not controlling me” (Provine 123). Nevertheless, laughter, as supported by the case of Norman Cousins, has extraordinary potential to be utilized as a permanent and/or supplementary treatment. It aids managing and ridding of patient pain and enhanced the quality of sleep patients experienced, which studies observe lead to a higher chance of remission (Givens). Lung Transplants and Post-Stroke Laughter is particularly successful in helping both post-stroke and lung transplant patients in their recovery process (Givens). Laughter moves oxygen steadily through the body, so implementing laughter therapy appears to be helpful to those after receiving a lung transplant. On the other hand, laughter yoga was tested on stroke patients; study findings included a reduction in post-stroke depression resulting from direct damage “to emotional centres in the


42 brain, compounded by frustration and difficulty adapting to new limitations” (Doskoch). These included anxiety, panic attacks, flat effect (failure to express emotions) and apathy, often characterized by lethargy, irritability, sleep disturbances, lowered self-esteem and withdrawal, and a reduction in stroke-related pain (Tierney). Laughter yoga also affected stroke patients by enhancing mobility and worked to renew their ability to walk without walking aids. Moreover, by releasing endorphins as a result of laughter, the intensity of pain was reduced, and in some cases laughter therapy helped patients recover from “cognitive deficits resulting from stroke including perceptual disorders, speech problems, and problems with attention and memory” ("7 Benefits of Laughter”). Lastly, it also improved communication and the relations between a patient and their significant others (Doskoch). Depression It is vital for an individual who is able to laugh at life’s trials and tribulations. One must be able to take a step back from a situation and view it with a degree of detachment. Separating yourself from an annoying incident is the “constructive way of breaking the vicious cycle that causes depression” (Tierney). Each time we experience a disappointment, our mirth decreases, which in turn may have the potential to biochemically cause depression. Laughter, however, can rescue a person from life’s setbacks, and thereby allow one to escape from this emotional downward spiral—especially during periods of grief. Moreover, lack of laughter can act as an indicator of depression if an individual generally has a happy disposition. “Laughter’s mental effect is to break away the dreads and fears that constitute the basis of so many depressions and lift one out the black hole of despondency” (Winerman).


43 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) When dealing with obsessions and compulsions, therapy as a treatment for the illness is generally ideal. In the case of OCD, laughter therapy is frequently utilized to help patients gain control of the illness ("Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD."). This is because when controlling OCD, one must be able to laugh at the absurdity. Laughter, too, helps because of the biochemical changes that create a change in mood. The organization, The Other OCD, ran a study that interviewed those who utilize laughter therapy; it best depicted the aid laughter provided when one subject stated, “If I am able to see my fears as absurd, they wouldn’t scare me so much…but laughter makes me feel less alone, and less shameful about it” (“Laughter”). Laughter allows you to see and accept your fear and thoughts for what they are; being able to take a step back and laughing at your anxiety is at times the most successful way to overcome it (Cackler). In particular, an intriguing study performed by Ihtsham Haq from Wake Forest University depicted the usage of laughter as a medicinal tool to cure obsessive-compulsive disorder (“Laughter”). Dr. Haq attempted to do so by performing a clinical study on six patients—all of who had previously tried and had no success with drug and behavioral therapy. Electrodes were implanted into each subject’s brain to aid in a medical procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation. This procedure allowed Dr. Haq to discover which regions of the brain, if stimulated, would induce laughter. He repeated this experiment, stimulating these portions of the brain, for two years. Following so, all but one patient showed marked improvement; though the experiment remains questionable because of the small sample size, it definitely opens the doors to a new treatment option (Cackler).


44 Beep, Beep, Beep—That’s All Folks Choosing to include laughter in your life changes every element of who you are as a person for the better. Humans tend to be creatures of habit; most of what we consider our identity to be, is a result of a series of learned behaviors. Therefore, regular practice of laughter consistently turns negative responses into those of positive ones. Often it is not the event itself that leaves a lasting impact on our lives, but how we react to it. Laughter can make these reactions worth remembering, for “choosing to laugh does not change your life, it changes you” (Tierney). Laughter can turn a shy person into an assertive public speaker, a short-tempered individual into someone who is able to diffuse his/her anger, and a person who has hit every roadblock life can offer into a person who makes the best out of the situation nonetheless. However, it is not just a positive perspective and additional confidence that laughter grants you, but rather it works to connect you with those around you. Laughter acts as the ‘glue’ to every relationship in your life; each fond memory you create generally includes and/or is centered upon laughter.

Moreover, laughter has a powerful potential that can no longer be ignored in the medical world. If utilized to its fullest, laughter is a medicine that can benefit both mental and physical health. Through laughter therapy and laughter yoga, laughter can be used for the treatment for both physical diseases and mental illnesses. Though it certainly isn’t the next cure for cancer, it is offers a healthy therapeutic supplement that at many times can make the difference between life and death. Laughter is completely natural. It is wholesome; infinite; low in energy consumption, yet high in body energy gain; non-fattening; an activity you can practice at all hours of the day; and there is absolutely no cost. How much better can you get?


45 The truth of the matter is, laughter is one of the most crucial elements in life. It controls how we perceive each day and the strength of every one of our relationships. Thus, by recognizing and understanding laughter, each and every person will be able to optimize and enhance their lives socially, mentally, and physically—allowing you to truly live happily ever laughter.


46

Afterword: Seven Tips for Increasing Laughter

1.

Find a Friend or Personable Stranger: laughter is a social signal that almost disappears when alone, so get out there and start chatting—a pair of compatible people is enough to get laughter underway.

2.

The More the Merrier: the more people you surround yourself with, the more potential there is for laughter.

3.

Make the Atmosphere Casual: time-pressed, stressed, hurried people do not laugh much; make a stress-free environment, and the laughter will follow.

4.

Interpersonal Contact: Increase the amount of face-to-face, eye-to-eye contact when within a group to maximize laughter.

5.

Be Open to Laughter: Though you can’t force a laugh, if you are willing and prepared to laugh you most likely will laugh more often.

6.

Manipulate the Laughter Contagion: Knowing that laughter is contagious, hang around more people that are cheery/laugh a lot and soon you will find you will do the same.

7.

Stage Social Events: As much as we like to think we crack ourselves up, the key element to laughing is having people to laugh with; hold various social opportunities to allow you to maximize your laughter.


47

Annotated Bibliography "7 Benefits of Laughter." Be Well Buzz. N.p., 12 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2013. The source describes seven various benefits of laughter in great depth; it provided much information about both the physical and mental health benefits that laughter can potentially grant a person. It was extraordinary useful in determining what part of the body specifically targets/enhances and providing details on such. "The Benefits of Laughter." Positive Parenting. N.p., 26 Aug. 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. This website portrayed how laughter can be used to improve familial relationships, especially if in a trouble family. It delves into the many factors that can be changed and/or improved just simply by laughing. It also provides several useful suggestions on how to incorporate laughter into daily life. Berry, Karlene. "The Use of Humor in Counseling." Thesis. University of Wisconsin-Stout, 2004. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. Karlene discusses the great impact laughter can have in therapy by increasing communication and willingness by the patient to open up. The source continues to describe how not only will the relationship between the therapist and client strengthen, but the sessions, themselves, will be more productive. Therefore, it works to support the idea that laughter can be extremely beneficial in therapy. Brain, Marshall. "Laughter and the Brain." How Laughter Works. HowStuffWorks, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. This source describes how laughter works in the brain. Brain goes through the process step-bystep, explaining what is occurring at each point before, during, and after someone laughs. The scientific explanation gives a valuable understanding of how laughter is produced. Cackler, Jack. "Strangely Charming: The Science of Laughter." Stanford Daily. N.p. 28 Apr. 2010. Web. 12 Nov. 2012 This source depicts information on the effects laughter has on both relationships and health. It gives detailed explanations on the power that laughter has socially, but also highly emphasizes how it can improve one’s health. This article was especially significant because it gave informative examples of experiments performed by various well-known universities across America. Thus, it not only presented the facts, but also portrayed how scientists have proven it to be true.


48 Dahlmeyer, Sharon, and Amanda Diehl-Lelyveld. The Use of Humor in Counseling. Education Resources Information Center. Southern Connecticut State University, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. Dahlmeyer and Diehl-Lelyveld depict how laughter can be potent in both education and therapy. It argues that laughter is not only an important supplement to therapeutic methods, but vital if you want to have an open pathway for communication. The source was extremely helpful in understanding how laughter plays a part in therapy. Doskoch, Peter. "Laughter." Psychology Today. N.p., 24 May 2011. Web. 9 Nov. 2012. This source provides an overview on laughter’s effect on mood, pinpointing its impact on stress, depression, and creativity in particular. It works to fill in the gaps of many of the benefits that laughter has on mental health that were slightly unclear beforehand. In addition, they present the unique idea of laughter influencing organ donation. Fleming, Kevin. "Laughter and the Brain." Grey Matters International, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. This source gives a thorough depiction of how laughter occurs and the brain’s response at each point when a joke is being told. The comprehension of this allows for a better understanding of laughter and why it occurs. The source is detailed and overall extremely helpful. Givens, David B., Ph.D. "Laugh." Center For Nonverbal Studies, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. Givens writes a detailed study about laughter—examining its placement in speech, the neurological happenings in the brain while laughing, and an overview of the health benefits. It is a very detailed piece that covers the broad spectrum of laughter. This was exceedingly helpful to me when deciphering through the various areas of laughter. Goodheart, A. Laughter Therapy. Santa Barbara: Less Stress, 1994. Print. This source discussed laughter therapy and the beneficial effects it can have both physically and mentally; it mainly focused on how laughter can help with psychotherapy session—such as healing and releasing cathartically fear and anger. It provided much information the great therapeutic potential of laughter. Hobbes, Thomas. "The Leviathan." Oregon State University, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. Hobbes in brief discusses his view point on laughter; the source provides a vital part to the philosophical evolution of laughter by depicting his personal view pints on the ‘malicious’ social skill. It primarily acts to support the idea that laughter was originally thought of as evil and full of malice. Holmstrom, David. "The Family That Laughs Together..." Christian Science Monitor. 15 Mar 2000: 15-16. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 06 Jan 2013.


49 Holmstrom discusses how laughter can truly bond a family together, despite disputes or troubles that may be having. Additionally, it provided an immense amount of information on how laughter is used in therapy sessions to provide a more comfortable environment and allow for better conversation; thus, this creates, essentially, an overall more productive session for the client. Junkins, Edna. "The Role of Laughter in Psychotherapy." Best Bet for the Blues. N.p., 1999. Web. 3 May 2013 Junkins discusses in an extremely informative fashion just how laughter benefits a patient in psychotherapy. The source breaks it down into the emotions laughter is able to cathartically release, and the impact it can have on the patient and session. It helped to fully develop the section and support that laughter benefits therapeutic communication. Kant, Immanuel. "Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment." N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <http://denisdutton.com>. Kant describes his opinions and views on laughter; this added another perspective to the philosophical evolution of laughter; well-known for his philosophy, Kant discusses his vital viewpoint on laughter. Unlike the philosophers that preceded him, Kant believed laughter to be a positive element in life; thus, Kant’s writing was necessary in order to demonstrate this switch in opinons. Kitano, Masahiro. "Aristotle's Theory of Comedy." Gunma Prefectural Women's University, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. Kitano describes Aristotle’s view on laughter; this demonstrates yet another key philosopher’s opinions on the subject matter. Aristotle’s perspective was extremely significant because he largely spread his beliefs to society; thus, this source was an important contribution to the display of the evolution of philosophies. Kuwana, Ellen. "The Science of Laughter." Neuroscience for Kids. N.p., 15 Oct. 2001. Web. <http://faculty.washington.edu>. 12. Nov. 2012 Kuwana works to teach the science behind laughter, exploring which parts of the brain it occurs in and how it affects the perception of laughter in conversation. In addition, it gives basic background and the much needed facts about how the age at which we start laughing is vital to the understanding of laughter itself. Overall, it works to give scientific background on the matter. "Laughter." The Other OCD. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2013. <http://www.theotherocd.com/>. This source gave valuable information on how laughter can be used as a treatment, and potentially a cure, for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It also gave a great amount of information on the disease itself, which helped to develop a broad understanding of it.


50 "Laughter In Schools And the World Of Education." American School of Laughter Yoga. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://www.laughteryogaamerica.com/> This website was particularly informative in the matter of laughter and education; it worked to help create a better understanding of just how powerful laughing can be in order to learn. Not only did it describe the many benefits that laughter grants a student, but it also discussed just how to incorporate laughter into a learning environment without detracting from what needs to be taught. Overall, it provided a great overview of laughter and education and is a very useful source. Montagu, Ashley. Growing Young. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981. Print. Montagu discusses the ability of laughter to benefit psychotherapy; it explains just how significant laughter is as an aid to opening communications, allowing one to see their trauma in a new light, and moving on from said trauma. It, also, defined and discussed laughter catharsis and how important of a technique it is to use during therapy. "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD." National Institute for Mental Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2013. This source provided the much needed basic information on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It discussed laughter as a treatment and explained why it is laughter is seen as helpful to those with OCD. It, additionally, helps describe that though there is no known cure to OCD currently, there are various methods (such as laughter) to help control it. O'Connell, Daniel C., and Sabine Kowal. Communicating with One Another: Toward a Psychology of Spontaneous Spoken Discourse. New York: Springer, 2008. Print. This source provided an understanding of the punctuation effect and gave a direct definition for it. Moreover, it worked to explain how laughter works within speech and how the merging of the two creates an observed pattern. The document was mainly helpful in comprehending the punctuation effect. Panksepp, Jaak. "The Riddle of Laughter: Neural and Psychoevolutionary Underpinnings of Joy." Current Directions in Psychological Science 9.6 (2000): 183-86. JSTOR. Web. Jan.-Feb. 2013. Panksepp explains the neurology behind laughterâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;examining it both in humans and rats. This portrays that elements of human laughter can also be seen within animals. Nevertheless, more importantly, it shows by understand the common link in the brain between species that laughter has, we will be able to possibly create a cure for emotional instabilities, such as depression. Peter, Laurence J., and Bill Dana. The Laughter Prescription: The Tools of Humor and How to Use Them. New York: Ballantine, 1982. Print. This book offers a significant amount of information on all aspects of laughter. It discusses laughter in relation to humor and depicts the numerous benefits that laughter has on oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life. It mainly focuses on the improvements it can add to your relationships, health, and communication;


51 unlike many sources, it gave the specifics on how it benefits these factors within your life instead of merely stating the facts. Philby, Charlotte. "Revealed: The Serious Science behind a Baby's Laugh." The Independent. N.p., 24 Oct. 2012. Web. <http://www.independent.co.uk/>. 12 Nov. 2012. This source provided an insight behind a relatively new idea of how laughter could potentially diagnose children with disorders (such as autism or Down Syndrome) at a very young age and lead to a consequent intervention. This article, therefore, truly showed how laughter is able to literally change the lives of many for the better. Plato. "Philebus." The Internet Classics Archive. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. This text works to depict Plato’s opinion on laughter. Plato believed laughter to be spiteful and derisive, and it is in this text that it is directly described and stated. Therefore, this proved useful in adding depth to the philosophical evolution. Plato. "The Republic." The Internet Classics Archive. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. This further demonstrates Plato’s view on laughter; his negative opinions on laughter allow for an effective contrast to the modern day beliefs of laughter. It, too, develops the philosophical evolution of laughter throughout the centuries. Because Plato is without a doubt one of the most famous philosopher’s, his work certainly proved useful in this section. Price, Alan. "Why Is Laughter Contagious?" PsyArticles, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. This source discussed the contagion of laughter. It gave a detailed overview of why and how laughter is contagious—relating it to a human instinct that we cannot consciously control. It was not only fascinating, but also provided much of the information needed to develop an argument that laughter is contagious. Provine, Robert R. Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. New York: Viking, 2000. Print. Provine works to examine the effects laughter has on relationships, exploring the idea that laughter demonstrates social power. In addition, it portrays when one laughs in conversation and how that has an effect on the relationship with someone. This source, thus, provides clear details on many of the social benefits, and provide many facts as a result of experiments which Provine also provides details on. Ramachandran, V. S. "The Neurology and Evolution of Humor, Laughter, and Smiling." Medical Hypotheses. N.p., 2 June 1997. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. The source delves into the neurology of laughter and what happens in the brain when one laughs; it explains how both sides of the brain are working during the process. Ramachandran was exceedingly detailed and clear in his description of laughter and the brain.


52 "The Role of Laughter in the Good Life: A Philosophical Examination." Sewanee Senior Philosophy Essays. Sewanee University, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. This source gave an overview on the evolution of laughter and how much it has changed. Though the physical act of laughing has stayed the same, the opinions and usage of laughter has completely changed over the years. It, too, delves into the medicinal possibilities and future potential of laughter. It was extraordinarily detailed and helpful in the comprehension of laughter. Roth, Rebecca. "A Look at Humor, Laughter, Tickling And, of Course, the Brain." Serendip Studio, 13 Feb. 2008. Web. 01 Apr. 2013 This source describes the neurological happenings when one laughs; it tells of the parts of the brain laughter occurs in and affects, while also explaining what causes one to laugh. The source was incredibly helpful when deciphering the different parts of the brain and what their functions are. Scott, Sophie. "Laughter on the Brain." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 03 July 2012. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. This source provided information on the neurological information on laughter. It too discusses the importance and functions of the parts of the brain that laughter stimulates. The source helped to develop a solid understanding of the brain. Stafford, Tom. "What Makes Us Laugh." Health. BBC, June-July 2012. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. Stafford depicts what exactly makes us laugh, despite our original assumption that we laugh only at humorous statements. He examines at what points in speech we laugh at and how often it is we laugh. The interesting read provided insight onto the falsehoods of laughter that the general public assumes to be true. Stambor, Zak. "How Laughing Leads to Learning." American Psychology Association. N.p., June 2006. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. Stambor was specifically useful in the understanding of laughter in education. The source not only examines laughter in the education system, but also how it can enhance oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ability to learn. It explores a variety of ways one is able to introduce laughter into the classroom; it, too, demonstrates how laughter changes the way a student thinks by building greater emotional intelligence. This source helped to build a better understanding of the relationship between laughter and education. Tierney, John. "What's So Funny? Well, Maybe Nothing." The New York Times. N.p., 13 Mar. 2007. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. This source discusses many of the medical benefits that laughter can have. It references to an experiment that was done to prove that laughter can have significant impact on stroke patients; this was interesting, for it gave additionally details on how laughter can be successfully used


53 therapeutically. It also contained a very detailed introduction on background information of both humor and laughter. Thompson, Andrea. "Study: Laughter Really Is Contagious." LiveScience. N.p., 12 Dec. 2006. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. This source examines the contagion of laughter; it portrays how laughter doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t just affect one person, but can potentially affect a whole society due to its contagious qualities. It, also, described the development of laugh tracks and how they play of the known contagion of laughter. It was a interesting source that explained the science behind the contagion. "Use Laughter to Enhance Your Life and Work." The Laughter School. N.p., 2006. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. <http://www.thelaughterschool.com/>. This website acted as the main source to show how laughter can improve your experience in a workplace. Laughter, as it explains, affects productivity, teamwork, coworker relationships, and overall happiness. It was both easily to understand and exceptionally useful. Welsh, Jennifer. "Why Laughter May Be the Best Medicine." Scientific American. LiveScience, 15 Sept. 2011. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. This source shares the great impact that laughter can have on depression and those diagnosed as clinically disturbed. It, also, depicts that laughter can not only be used as therapy, but also the means to creating a positive therapy environment. This source was particularly useful because it explored the use of laughter as an aid to not a physical disease, but rather to an emotional instability. Winerman, Lea. "A Laughing Matter." Monitor 37.6 (2006): 58. American Psychology Association. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. This source gives the details on laughter yoga and how it works. It discusses laughter in the brain, and therefore, how with this understanding, organizations are able to create the therapeutic routine of laughter yoga. It mentions briefly the various benefits, but mostly focuses in on what it is and what it seeks to do. Wiseman, Richard. "Incongruity." Laugh Lab. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2013. In this source, Wiseman describes the incongruity theory. It was remarkably beneficial in demonstrating the meaning and providing an example to how it works. Wiseman was both clear and detailed in his explanationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;allowing for a strong portrayal of the theory.


54

Image Bibliography Cover Page (from left to right): http://arielugar.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/laugh1.jpg http://static7.businessinsider.com/image/4c53108e7f8b9a41307b0000/kids-laughing-soap.jpg http://i2.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/004/403/Girls.png http://farm1.static.flickr.com/7/10106555_d6677f5416.jpg http://thaimaiphotography.com/blog/wedding-photos/aftershoot/bic-henry/beautiful-couplelaughing.jpg http://youthvoices.net/sites/default/files/image/21052/nov/8198194181_fff57e47e3_b.jpeg http://www.wholepk.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/baby-laugh.jpg http://www.tangramhotels.com/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth800GroupOfPeopleLaughing2.jpg http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-1hjYHlcorCs/Tk-SA8MiWGI/AAAAAAAAAYk/ETRePHlz4s/s1600/People+laughing.jpg http://cortezcolorado.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/kid-laughing-300x300.jpg http://www.samoppenheim.com/photos/LaughingMonk.jpg http://a57.foxnews.com/global.fncstatic.com/static/managed/img/Health/660/371/640_laughing.j pg?ve=1 http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-DfAASDdq58M/Tzze3O1wGI/AAAAAAAAAVo/Fbs6lFoRRWo/s1600/daily-glow-12-ways-to-boost-energy-friendslaughing.jpg http://2.bp.blogspot.com/SJSe5KLUED0/TuF9h68i0FI/AAAAAAAAAGM/CSuI2PcXkEg/s1600/old.jpg http://www.kellynaturally.com/image.axd?picture=2010%2F12%2Fchildren_laughing.jpg http://www.visualphotos.com/photo/2x4371747/two_mature_female_friends_laughing_is098q8g 6.jpg http://www.wallcoo.net/photography/innocence_baby_photography/images/%5Bwallcoo_com% 5D_Baby_Photography_of_baby_Girl_laughing_ISPC006022.jpg http://thehairpin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/salad-woman-4.jpg http://molempire.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Men_Laughing_With_Salad-150x150.jpg http://womenofwisdom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Woman-Laughing2.jpg http://explore.org/photos/1751/man-laughing-gereida.jpg Page 28: http://www.laughteryogaamerica.com/services/laughter-education-733.php


2

Acknowledgements

I would gratefully like to acknowledge the enormous help and contributions given by Mr. Zontine, for my never-ending editing questions, and Mrs. Fields, for allowing me to work pretty much all day in the library; and thank you to Mark and Denise Simon for your never-ending support. -A.S.


3

Contents Introduction Part 1: Background- The Underpinnings of Laughter Laughter and the Brain Can You Say ‘ha-ha’?: Laughter as the Earliest Communication Laughter versus Humor Part 2: The Social Significance of Laughter The Beginnings of Laughter Nothing to Joke About: Pre-Laugh Comments Why Do We Laugh? The Dark Side to Laughter The Usage of Laughter to Increase Therapeutic and Familial Bonds The Contagion of Laughter Improving Education One Laugh at a Time Laughter in the Workplace Part 3: A Laugh a Day Keeps the Doctor Away Laughing Your way to a Healthier Life 1. Laughter as the Key to Mental Health 2. Welfare When in Doubt, Laugh it Out: Laughter as a Treatment Laughter as Treatment for Specific Illnesses 1. Cancer 2. Lung Transplant and Post-Stroke 3. Depression 4. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 5. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Conclusion Afterword Annotated Bibliography Picture Bibliography

4 5 6 8 9 11 12 15 17 19 20 23 24 26 30 31 31 33 35 39 39 40 41 42 42 43 44 46 53


4 Three guys walk into a bar… Every five minutes we laugh on average at least once, every hour we laugh up to 35 times, and every day up to 420 times (Doskoch). Simply by the numbers, it can be seen that laughter is a dominant aspect of daily life. However, the strangeness of laughter—both as a behavior and as a vocalization—is masked by its familiarity. Its significance, nevertheless, is both vital and potent; it is one of the two biggest communicative milestones in human development and often conveys meaning more effectively than words. Laughter is, essentially, another language that is universally understood and practiced. Though often most take it for granted and view it as an unconscious reaction to a humorous statement, life would be drastically worse off with its absence. Laughter delves much deeper than an involuntary reaction; think for a moment about your most cherished memories. Often, these recollections will include laughing, for it is in these moments of pure bliss that you are truly happy. However, it is not just happiness that laughter controls. It regulates the mental, everyday health of an individual that thereby maintains one’s healthy balance. Laughter also monitors and enhances several other elements in everyday life. It is, without a doubt, the quintessence of relationships—making the initial bond between two people. It has the ability to make people seem warm, authoritative, cooperative, ineffectual, or just plain annoying. Furthermore, its potential as a miracle drug to various diseases and illnesses is one that simply cannot be ignored. Laughter is a valuable, infinite tool that if exploited to its maximum potential could change our perspective medically and socially. Laughter is no longer just an audible expression that we take for granted, but rather it works to benefit a person socially, mentally, and physically—and that ain’t no joke!


5

Part 1: Background- The Underpinnings of Laughter


6 The Neurological Happenings behind Laughter In order to fully understand the various benefits of laughter, it is important to first comprehend the neurological happenings each time we begin to laugh. Unlike the expressions of other emotions, such as anger or fear, laughter does not involve just one specific area of the brain. Rather, laughter consists of emotional, cognitive, and motor functions (Brain). Research has, therefore, targeted the various areas of the brain that activate when one begins to laugh and has confirmed that four out of five of the brainâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s main regions play a significant part (the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe, the sensory processing area in the occipital lobe, and a small section of the temporal lobe). Furthermore, both motor nerves and part of the limbic system are used (Kuwana). The cerebral cortex is the largest portion of the brain; both the left and right side are used during the act of laughing. The left side is what initiates the entire process, allowing the brain to analyze the words and structure of the humorous statement, and/or joke (Ramachandran). The right side is then used to actually comprehend the joke on an intellectual level. The cortex allows humans to understand what was said, observe the humorous quality to the statement, and perceive/analyze why it was funny. Moreover, the frontal lobe becomes extremely active during spouts of laughter (Fleming); it grants us the much needed memory of how to appropriately socially interact with others. Therefore, it reinforces when it is, and isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t, appropriate to laugh from past experiences with humor. It, too, controls skilled muscle movementâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; regulating facial muscles when one begins to laugh (Kuwana). Subsequently, before a subject has had time to laugh, increased brain wave activity will rapidly move from the frontal lobe to the sensory processing area in the occipital lobe. The


7 occipital lobe maintains the cells that process visual signals (Roth). This allows one to pick up on the joke at hand and those laughing, or about to laugh, confirming that it is appropriate to laugh in the given instance (Fleming). The temporal lobe contains memories of intense feelings of mirth; scientists, consequently, suggest that “it is likely that mirth and the events that cause these feelings are stored in the same place within the brain” (Kuwana). In addition, it controls auditory skills. This allows for the individual to hear the laughter and/or joke and respond appropriately. Nevertheless, interestingly enough, studies have shown that those who are blind or deaf still have the ability to laugh as a baby (Ramachandran). This portrays that this subconscious response is very much like a natural instinct (Kuwana). The motor senses and parts of the limbic system play additional key roles in the process of laughter. The motor senses contain the most obvious use, signaling to the body to move the muscles of their face and to smile. The limbic system, on the other hand, adds to the emotional impact of the experience (Scott). The limbic system is known as one of the most primitive systems that mediate emotions. However, it is the amygdala and hippocampus in particular that play a potent role in the system in association with laughter (Fleming). The amygdala is a “limbic structure that acts to process ‘reflexive’ emotion,” such as fear or, in this case, laughter (Kuwana). The hippocampus, conversely, works to maintain both short-term and long-term memory. The combination of the two allow for an individual to react with laughter, and then in future situations associate previous laughter with memories (Roth). Additionally, though it still does not have the necessary amount of substantial evidence yet, it is believed that just as songbirds are constantly aware of avian melodies, humans have “specialized nerve cells that respond to laughter” (Kuwana). Scientists have suggested this through the observation that when other people are laughing, the brain activates its auditory


8 senses, but also immediately, the motor senses (Brain). This suggests that upon hearing laughter, one immediately begins to prepare to laugh too (Fleming). These discoveries concerning laughter and the brain are founded upon the serendipitous discovery during a surgery involving a girl named “A.K.” Published in a journal under the title of “Electric Current Stimulates Laughter,” doctors in 1998 discovered just how deeply related the brain and laughter are. It discusses the case of a sixteen-year-old girl named A.K, who desperately needed surgery to control seizures due to epilepsy. During the surgery’s procedure, the doctors “stimulated A.K.’s cerebral cortex in order to map her brain” (Kuwana). The doctors found that A.K. always laughed when they stimulated a small two centimeter-by two centimeter area on her left frontal gyrus (a part of the frontal lobe of the brain). This brain area is part of the supplementary motor area (Roth). However, what was specifically unusual was that the laughter that was produced by electrical stimulation in A.K. also brought forth a sense of cheeriness or mirth. Furthermore, each time her brain was stimulated, A.K. laughed incessantly and said that something was funny to her. What she said was causing her to laugh was different each time. Uniquely, A.K. would laugh first, and then made up a story that was funny to her (Roth). Before this discovery, many assumed that the process could only occur in the opposite format—hearing what was funny and then laughing. The discovery suggested that the brain played a larger role in laughter than originally thought. This, therefore, opened the doors to the growing understanding of the brain’s role in laughter today (Kuwana).


9 Can You Say ‘ha-ha’?: Laughter as the Earliest Communication These underpinnings of the neurological happenings of laughter act to not only provide a greater depth to the process of laughter, but work to emphasize how it is a subconscious, emotional response that rapidly occurs frequently and universally (Brain). Laughter is referred to as “a universal language of basic emotions that all humans share” (Kuwana). This being said, laughter is additionally the earliest onset form of communication throughout all cultures and countries. During strong emotional states, we naturally struggle to find words that adequately express our particular feelings of the moment—slowly developing this ability to do so as we grow older (Ramachandran). Therefore, when first born, babies look towards laughter as a way to express such strong emotion—“start[ing] to laugh at about 2-3 months of age” (Kuwana). Because laughter is one of the earliest forms of communication, research suggests laughter is a necessary element that we are automatically born with; scientists believe that we are born with laughter, as opposed to developing it, because it is vital in order to live and socially interact. Jaak Panksepp proves this further by stating that “there is something primitive and something psychologically sophisticated about human laughter: on the one hand, the stereotyped vocal patterns, which first appear in rudimentary form at 2 to 3 months of age, reflect an ancient heritage, whereas on the other hand, the subtleties of adult humor highlight how those primitive emotional processes interact with refined cognitions within higher reaches of the brain-mind” (Panksepp). Laughter versus Humor: What’s the Difference? Nonetheless, as scientists have delved into the research of laughter—whether gaining a basic understanding of what occurs in the brain or laughter as an instinct—many begin to find


10 that “one of the biggest methodological problems in the research on laughter is the failure to distinguish between humor and laughter” (Tierney). It is important to keep in mind when studying laughter that though the two are undoubtedly related, they are actually differing in qualities. Humor is “a construct,” while laughter is “a physiological event” (Tierney). While the effects of humor are cognitive (i.e. the recognition of some incongruity and perhaps an increase in perceived control), the effects of laughter are physical. Moreover, many distinguish the two by suggesting “humor is the stimulus, and laughter is one of several possible behavioral responses to that stimulus” (Tierney). When this distinction is made clear, it is easier to see that humor and laughter are distinct, although often intertwined, events. Humor can occur without laughter, and laughter can occur without humor, and that is a vital factor to keep in mind when studying the benefits of laughter (Tierney).


11

Part 2: The Social Significance of Laughter


12 The Beginnings of Laughter: The Philosophical and Theoretical Evolution to the Modern Research on Laughter The undeniable importance of laughter is accurately portrayed by the magnitude of the caliber of those who have previously sought to comprehend it—a group that includes, but is not limited to Plato, Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer, Sigmund Freud, and Henri Bergeson. Nevertheless, the true mystery behind the topic can be validated in the simple fact that it did not yield to the research of these highly respected intellects. Their theories and thoughts though have created the foundation for the first understandings of laughter, which have led to today’s current scientific exploration (Provine 23). The earliest ideas concerning laughter developed from the first efforts of selfcontemplation; thus, it started not from scientific discovery, but rather philosophy. Plato, whose work on laughter is the first surviving theory, feared “its power to disrupt the state” (Provine 33). In his Republic, Plato specifically discussed the negative consequences violent laughter can have when we submit ourselves to it. His opposition towards laughter went farther than just merely suggesting to avoid the action itself, but he, too, suggested that all readings remove the mention of gods or heroes laughing. In another one of Plato’s works, entitled Philebus, Plato suggests that what causes laughter is vice (Plato). Then our argument tells us, that when we laugh at what is ridiculous in friends, in introducing the element of pleasure into envy, we do in effect blend together this pleasure with pain; since it reminds us that it was some time ago agreed, that envy was a mental pain, and that laughing was a pleasure; and thus that these two feelings were produced in us together at those particular times (Plato). Plato, thus, notes that though laughter does allow a certain pleasure to emerge, it is a pleasure tied to envy and scorn. Plato furthered his argument by depicting that laughable people see


13 themselves as better looking physically and more intelligent than they really are. Notably, he compares laughter with pleasure and pain—stating that laughing is much like relieving an itch by scratching it. Just as one relieves an itch by scratching it, the pleasure laughter provides relieves the “pain associated with gloating over friends’ misfortune” ("The Role of Laughter”). Furthermore, Aristotle emphasized laughter as a malicious reaction to ignorance. Though the primary source of Aristotle’s writings on laughter has been lost, his opinions on the matter can be seen through indirect references in other works. Though Aristotle viewed laughter as a “subdivision of the ugly,” he differed from Plato because he believed that tasteful laughter in small amounts was a desirable thing (Kitano). However, he saw a peculiar darkness to laughter in its power to control, persuade, and discredit. Thomas Hobbes continued the study of laughter suggesting in his infamous Leviathan that laughter is the expression of “sudden glory arising from some sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly.” This perhaps acts as one of the best known quotes about laughter, for it suggests that it acts as a victory call to those he/she feels superior to (Hobbes). Just as social standards evolved, the opinions of laughter transformed as well; laughter had changed from a rude act of derision, to that of “affection arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing” (Kant). After the release of Immanuel Kant’s positive view on laughter, Arthur Schopenhauer created the Incongruity Theory. This theory stated that laughter rose from the perceived discrepancy between physical perception and an abstract representation. Detecting this incongruity resulted in a celebration, known as laughter (Wiseman). This can be seen when one laughs at various jokes that go against expectation. For example, take the following joke:


14 Two fish in a tank. One turns to the other and says: “Do you know how to drive this?” (Wiseman) The set up leads you to believe two fish are in a fish tank, but the punch line surprises the audience, because you soon realize that it was referencing an army tank. Our mind immediately realizes this, resolves the incongruity caused by the punch line, and emits a sudden feeling of surprise—resulting in laughter (Wiseman). However, Freud has a more factual outlook on laughter—depicting in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious that all laughter-evoking situations are pleasing because they create and store psychic energy. Freud views laughter as something much more significant than just a reaction to a joke; rather, he believes laughter to be a key to the unconscious (Provine 37). With research beginning on the scientific effects of laughter, Henri Bergeson took a different route, putting forth the idea that laughter was inherently a social mechanism. To him, laughter loses its meaning and presence outside of a group, a position that is still well-supported today. Interestingly, Bergeson also creates a fundamental principle of laughter through the observation that for something to be funny it must be human. Even when laughing at an animal or inanimate object, it is because it reminds us of something human ("The Role of Laughter”). In contrast to the years of philosophical analysis, the history of empirically scientific based research has only been studied for a mere 100 years—Norman Cousin’s book, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient, on how laughter treated the incurable acting as a powerful catalysis to the research (Kuwana). However, it is the mixture of the philosophical and scientific studies that have led to the modern day understanding of laughter that is still continuing to expand. This is because by fully comprehending the significant part that laughter plays in the universal culture, one is able to perceive the true power that laughter contains (Provine 134).


15 Nothing to Joke About: Pre-laugh Comments and Laughter’s Placement in Everyday Speech Despite the contrasting opinions on laughter within history, the significant relationship between laughter and speech has been a common thread between the varying views. Today, a consistent pattern has been established through the work of repeated observation. During conversation, laughter by the speakers almost always follows complete statements or questions. It, thus, has been suggested that laughter is not randomly scattered throughout the speech stream (O’Conell and Kowall 40). For example, a person who states, “How have you been” would not likely say, “How have you…ha-ha…been?” Rather, the speaker regularly uses laughter to end his/her statement. This orderly relationship is “akin to punctuation in written communication and is termed the punctuation effect” (Provine 44). Given the theory that laughter punctuates speech, it is thereby reasonable to question what type of punctuation laughter signifies—a question mark, period, exclamation, or something different entirely (O’Conell and Kowal 41). Nevertheless, though laughter is present within the natural flow of conversation, it is not an exclusive consequence of a particular comment. People seemingly laugh after both questions and statements, leading scientists to believe that laughter surpasses the common expectations of punctuation (Givens). Master comedians, too, are aware of this usage of the punctuation effect, depicting that the presentation of the joke is equally as important of the joke itself (in particular noting the pause at the end of the punch line) (Cackler). Therefore, laughter’s role as verbal punctuation not only acts to maintain the natural rhythm in conversation, but also creates the “emotional tone and the speaker’s intentions.” Additionally, this is suggested as a reason why it is more difficult to interpret the meaning of written communication because it is missing “emotional clues about the sender’s tone,” such as laughter (Kuwana).


16 After observing the placement of laughter in speech, it is also highly notable to understand its content. It is safe to say most assume that laughter occurs at the end of a humorous statement; however, according to several studies, people generally laugh not after a joke, but rather after “innocuous lines” (Stafford). In fact, “although we do laugh at jokes and funny movies, 80% of our laughter occurs during everyday comments in everyday social situations” (Kuwana). In an experiment performed by Dr. Robert Provine, it was discovered that out of 1,200 conversations, only “about 10 to 20 percent of pre-laugh comments were estimated to be even vaguely humorous” (Provine 52). It was found that we laugh at nothing that even resembles a joke, story, or anything remotely attempting at humor. Below is a table compiled by Dr. Robert Provine of most typical comments that resulted in laughter. TABLE 1 25 Typical Pre-laugh Comments Typical Statements

Typical Questions

I’ll see you guys later. Put those cigarettes away. I hope we all do well. It was nice meeting you too. We can handle this. I see your point. I should do that, but I’m too lazy. I try to lead a normal life. I think I’m done. I told you so! I was completely horrified! There you go! I know! Must be nice! Look, it’s Andre!

It wasn’t you? Does anyone have a rubber band? Oh, Tracey, what’s wrong with us? Can I join you? How are you? Are you sure? Do you want one of mine? What can I say? Why are you telling me this? What is that supposed to mean?


17

As the comments in the table portray, most laughter is not a response to jokes or other formal attempts at humor. This, therefore, forces a reevaluation of what laughter signifies and what is means. Laughter is, indeed, the quintessential social signal, and no longer is it believed that laughter is just an aid to conversation, but rather the key to successful relationships (Cackler). Why do we laugh? The Social Significance behind Laughter Human societies treasure laughter and consequently, whatever is able to produce it. Without the presence of laughter, life would become undeniably drab and would seem hardly human. It is, perhaps, this high value that has been placed upon laughter and its stimuli that has caused a chaotic path towards the comprehension of the subject matter. However through dutiful observation, scientists have been able to discover why we laugh and the potent role it plays in everyday socialization (Cackler). Many automatically assume that laughter is a reaction to a humorous statement that our body does subconsciouslyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;much like blinking or flinching. Though this technically appears to be true, the purpose of laughter delves much deeper than a basic response. The workings of laughter can be understood through the experiment staged by leading scientist, Dr. Robert Provine. He, wanting to gain knowledge on the topic, began an experiment by inviting individuals into his laboratory and entertained them with audio and video recordings of comedy performances. Provine quickly found that his comic virtuosi would only elicit reluctant chuckles from the subjects. Why is it that though he was surrounded by laughing people, they would go stone sober when brought into the experiment? The answer lies in the fact that the subjects were


18 alone; the subjects displayed that laughter is a social behavior that “virtually disappears in isolated people being scrutinized in a laboratory setting” (Provine 55). Thus, laughter is a way of social bonding. Both laughing and talking are principally auditory signals, functioning in light or darkness and around any physical barriers. Smiling, in contrast, is a visual signal that needs eye-to-eye, visual contact between the recipient and the smiling face of the sender. Therefore, despite the fact that “laughter [is] our earliest form of communication,” talking was the first to automatically be studied because its role in communication is more obvious and unquestioned (Philby). However, it is believed that laughter plays an equally important role; this is portrayed in an experiment performed by the undergraduate students at the University of Maryland. When asked to record their activity, they soon discovered, upon examination, that when alone the solitary subject is most likely to talk, followed by their likelihood to smile, and then to laugh was in a distant third place. This suggests that there is a striking sociality to laughter; the experiment’s conclusion, too, supported this, for the students were “about 30 times more likely to laugh in the presence of others than alone” (Moskowitz). Laughter disappeared altogether amongst subjects not exposed to media stimulation, supporting the idea that laughter is generally only performed when with other people—in social situations. This also explains why nitrous oxide (laughing gas) “won’t crack you up when inhaled in solitude” (Welsh); laughter is, consequently, the only auditory communication that one generally only performs when with people. If this is the case, then why do people laugh? The purpose of laughter has been concluded to not be a reaction to humor, but rather a form of instinctive social bonding that humor is crafted


19 to thereby exploit. Laughter, thus, is a social act involving companions that play a vital role in bonding by solidifying friendships and “pulling people into the fold.” You generally define your ‘friends’ as those with whom you laugh with, and therefore, laughing with a group of people increases our sense of “belonging and social cohesion” (Doskotch). It is an intensely social emotion that conveys the message that we are playing, and through the increased sense of social unity, it breaks down boundaries and makes relationships more intimate. It helps to create and maintain these social bonds and shows to people that we relate to them, we are like them, and we agree with them (Winerman). This, too, works to emphasize why laughter has remained within human evolution; laughter universally brings human groups together. Though one of the most primitive functions, it is one of the most consistently significant social mechanisms (Provine 61). The Dark Side to Laughter: Derisive Laughter This ‘dark side’ to laughter is seemingly why philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, originally opposed laughter. All too often, derisive laughter is used as a type of social scorn, becoming “a psychological tool for teasing and taunting” (Panksepp). This establishment of exclusive group identities through the use of laughter sets the stage for finding mirth and enjoyment from the misfortunes of other people. Additionally, it is utilized to exhibits one’s disdain towards another and consequently ostracizing that individual. Laughter scorns the victim, while bonding/feeding the wrath of the provoker. Moreover, on a more massive scale, laughter is generally seen to accompany robbing, killing, or raping. This type of laughter is called “sardonic laughter,” a relatively new field of study (Provine 63). Though there is little detail known on the subject currently, what is known is that in the extreme cases, those raping or killing reach such a high in mirth that laughter is the


20 resulting outcome (Provine 63). Certainly, that drastic version of sardonic laughter only occurs among a rare few; however, laughter is commonly seen in the school systems and the daily lives of many as a tool to poke fun at and at times bully others. As a valuable social skill, it can be manipulated to assert superiority over others by laughing at those they see as inferior. Therefore, though laughter is a powerful tool with infinite benefits, it has the potential to be used spitefully as well (Welsh). The Usage of Laughter to Increase Therapeutic and Familial Relationships Though it has been depicted that laughter plays a potent role in everyday conversation— be it with friends or family—laughter, too, has a remarkable ability to heal relationships that are troubled and or make them stronger. In human culture, societies most frequently experience these relationship troubles within their own family; parents worry about how to raise their child, while the children begin to grow and seek further independence. Thus, many believe the key to positive parenting to be “all about the connection we have with our children” (“The Benefits of Laughter”). Today especially, home environments struggle with the staggering divorce rate and overpowering increase in technology; however, though these work to “sever family bonds, many families find laughter to be the tie that binds.” This is because laughter, the world’s most inexpensive glue, is a powerful tool that strengthens the connection between family members, makes them more in tune with each other, and helps hold the family together (Holmstrom). Consequently, behaviorists insist that it is vital that any healing strategy for troubled families include increasing laughter in daily life. On account of this, families must make the deliberate effort to have events and conversations full of laughter regularly (“7 Benefits of Laughter”), for families of various cultures have “nurtured several generations of closeness because of fond memories rooted in laughter” (Holmstrom).


21 Furthermore, laughter is utilized to quickly develop a stronger connection in the relationship between a therapist and his/her client. Many therapists regard laughter as a valuable, efficient vehicle that has helped their clients progress effectively in handling “personal, social, and emotional problems” (Holmstrom). Laughter, when used correctly, leads to an undeniable sense of rapport that proves useful in therapy. This is because laughter usually occurs in environments of comfort and among a group of friends. Moreover, typical laughing sessions are noteworthy for the warm feelings, goodwill, and most importantly, freedom of “spontaneous self-expression” (Berry). When one is able to create such circumstances during psychotherapy sessions, it is extremely likely that the client will contain no hesitation to communicate their thoughts both freely and frankly (Montagu 135). This enhances the feeling of catharsis, a main goal of therapy. Cathartic techniques allow clinicians to help clients access their stored, pent-up emotions and release them. Theoretically, the more catharsis the client experiences, the faster she/he will move through the healing process. Though often crying is seen as the most valuable form of catharsis, interestingly “laughter is perhaps the most important because it releases three emotions— fear/anxiety, anger, and boredom” (Junkins). Laughter takes care of several painful feelings—the first being, fear and anxiety. These emotions are generally seen in survivors, who after said trauma find that they are always afraid. Their memories and much of life now terrify and intimidate them. However, laughter is able to diminish fear and release it into a healthy state. In addition to fear, laughter releases light anger and indirectly aids ridding of deeper anger too (Goodheart 120). It does so by allowing one “to shed the lighter aspects of fear and anger, which can then open access to deep rage” (Montagu 153). Laughter is one of the most appropriate way’s to approach angry feelings because anger is


22 usually repressed by fear; therefore, laughter can dually release fear and then anger. Laughter, moreover, is a much more moderate way to address anger and vital towards releasing it (Junkins). Laughter catharsis is key to recovering from past trauma, or simply understanding it. Undoubtedly, laughter catharsis does not change the facts, but it does change the way one relates to the facts. It permits a person to gain a new perspective on a terrible situation, allowing moving on to seem possible. Laughter allows survivors to remember, to feel, and to explore without fearing that they will once more be trapped by circumstances beyond their control. Life’s most tragic and bizarre occurrences contain things which may strike one as personally absurd if one is able to look for them and the absurd is often a trigger point for laughter. Underneath the layers of unresolved pain, there is the child who possesses a strong biological drive toward joy and with the capacity for it, even with the capacity to generate it for itself (Montagu 153). Therefore, all that prevents the survivor from being joyful once again is the release of the pain layered on top. Laughter provides that release in a pleasurable way. Partnered with crying and rage release, laughter peels away the pain, allowing one to feel the joy beneath (Goodheart 123). On the other hand, laughter is also seen to stimulate new ways of “perceiving and understanding one’s attitudes and behavior” (Dahlmeyer and Diehl-Lelyveld). If one is able to create joint laughter between the client and therapist, it too will lead the client to undertake beneficial behavioral changes (Holmstrom). The process of inserting laughter into therapy sessions repeatedly can be done by introducing playful situations that stimulate laughter. The first anticipated behavioral change observed will be a relief in nervous tension and depressed feelings. From there, enhanced communication will ensue. Therefore, by joining laughter with


23 psychotherapy, “useful ways of dealing with the problems of everyday living may be discovered” (Berry). Clients will, consequently, grow wiser in our behavioral decisions as they learn alternative ways of understanding their experiences (Dahlmeyer and Diehl-Lelyveld). The Contagion of Laughter Laughter can not only be manipulated to create a more powerful application in strengthening relationship, but also plays a significant role in behavioral chain reactions. The saying by Ella Wilcox, “Laugh and the world laughs with you” suggests this remarkable property of human laughter—it’s contagion. Upon hearing laughter, we have an instinctual response to laugh in return, creating this chain reaction that will subsequently sweep throughout a group. The contagious laugh response is “immediate and involuntary, involving the most direct communication between people—brain to brain” (Provine 140). Contagious laughter strips away the surface of culture and language and challenges the idea that we are conscious of our behavior. It is through this uncontrollable act that we are able to observe the powerful display of human group behavior (Thompson). The most renowned example of contagious laughter occurred in modern day Tanzania in Central Africa in 1962. It began in a boarding school for girls between the ages of 12 and 18; three girls began laughing on January 30, and the symptoms of laughing and crying spread to 95 of the 159 students (Price). The school had to soon close on March 18 because of the incessant laughter. Individual laugh attacks lasted several hours and recurred approximately four times a day; it, too, would last up to 16 days at a time. In what seems like a ludicrous epidemic, around two hundred seventeen villagers were affected near the laughter contagion’s conclusion (Provine 141).


24 However, this idea of being able to cause a continuous chain of laughter through the sound of laughter itself has been brought to the media industry; television comedy shows use laugh tracks, laugh records, and laugh boxes to invoke laughter from the audience (Kuwana). Where did it all begin? The Hank McCune Show used the first laugh track in 1950 to compensate for not having a live audience while filming. Though the show itself ended that same year, the innovation behind the laugh tracks flourished (Thompson). Compared to that of plays and live comedy shows, television completely breaks the interactive link between the audience and actors; thus, laugh tracks attempts to reconnect actors and the audience (Thompson). Many scrutinize laugh tracks for hopelessly trying to make a poorly written script sound funny. Nonetheless, Sylvester Weaver, former president of NBC, explains it best when he stated that “Laughter is a community experience and not an individual one. No one likes to laugh alone and when you sit in your own living room, an honestly made laugh track can project you right into the audience, with the best seat in the house, to enjoy the fun” (Provine 143) Improving Education One Laugh at a Time Though undoubtedly a widespread contagion of laughter, as seen in the school in India, proved to be a large barrier for the school system, laughter can conversely play a vital role in learning. If maximized, laughter has the potential to increase concentration, build necessary emotional intelligence, strengthen one’s ability to handle academic pressure, and create an optimal learning environment (Stambor). Due to the huge leap in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, children now more than ever are struggling to concentrate during class (Stambor). However, laughter proves to be an easy fix, for an extended hearty laugh improves blood circulation and “flushes the lungs of stale residual air” ("Laughter In Schools And the World Of


25 Education”). This automatically increases concentration power, which consequently, would enhance learning ability and academic performance (Stambor). Additionally, in social play, notably more so with children, laughter is critical to the development of social skills and emotional intelligence. Those with a deprivation of laughter are seen to be deficient in social skills which can lead to life-long physical, mental, emotional, social issues. Laughter promotes this potent childlike, playful behavior needed while growing up ("Laughter In Schools And the World Of Education”). Even adults who maintain a playful attitude continue to learn social skills and improve their emotional intelligence. Learning requires “that one lower what linguists call the ‘affective barrier’” (Stambor). Those who are uptight are limited to the quantity that they are able to learn. Therefore, you have to ease up and laugh to create (“Use Laughter to Enhance Your Life and Work"). A severe problem that students undergo as they pass through the various educational systems is the weight of academic pressure and anxiety (Stambor). Schools have turned into the means by which peers compete for future success, and thus, students from an early age are being pressured to attain excellent grades with the hope that this will one day lead them to a successful life ("Laughter In Schools And the World Of Education”). Moreover, many children are receiving additional pressure by their parents—pressure that “often leads children to strive for unrealistic goals which, as they get unfulfilled, can bring on serious stress and prove detrimental to their mental and physical health” (Stambor). However, as they learn to laugh unconditionally, children become more adept at handling pressure due to the fact that laughter builds “selfconfidence and the ability to handle stress by boosting the immune system and releasing endorphins in the brain” which kick start good feelings and eliminate the high levels of stress ("Use Laughter to Enhance Your Life and Work").


26 With laughter present in the classroom, students are better able to enjoy the presence of an optimal learning environment. Though research has supported and explained the various ways laughter benefits the students academically, it is key to use laughter as a tool to enhance the material “by tapping into students' multiple intelligences and learning styles in a way that forces them to think in divergent and real-life ways” ("Use Laughter to Enhance Your Life and Work"). For example, by presenting a situation that will induce laughter, the students will merge both their emotional intelligence and cognitive intelligence. This will allow students to think differently and in a new viewpoint than what they normally would (Stambor). Furthermore, laughter must be used to compliment and not distract from the lesson itself. Suggestions of how this can be done is by making your syllabus funny, utilizing real/hypothetical humorous situations, asking punch-line questions during question and answer discussions, creating outrageous examples, and/or dramatizing your material ("Laughter In Schools And the World Of Education”). By adding these elements into daily life within the classroom, not only will attention during the class increase, but also the lasting memory of what was taught (Stambor). Laughter in the Workplace Not only can laughter aid the classroom setting, but also is directly correlated to the success of one’s career. Laughter, itself, is directly correlated with success. Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get (Winerman). No matter where you are socially or economically, laughter can help you succeed. Though it isn’t the panacea for financial problems or social awkwardness, it can help you see your financial issues in a new perspective and “be the social lubricant that warms up your personal relationships” (Peter and


27 Dana 15). Therefore, no matter what your occupation might be—doctor, lawyer, mailman, businessman—and no matter what level you work at within your particular career, the energy of laughter can automatically improve your job. It improves communication, motivation, and difficult problem solving (Tierney). Laughter opens the pathway for effective communication with co-workers or others in the same job or profession because it acts as a common ground (Tierney). Politics, religion, and taste could potentially have conflicting results, but sharing a laugh about your work is an opportunity to bond over similar experiences (Winerman). Laughing improves interaction among workers on both a daily and long term basis—resulting in the creation of an environment in which “feelings can be communicated and exchanged” (Tierney). Additionally, by showing that one is willing to laugh at oneself, you can avoid creating the negative impression of being pompous; ergo, it is suggested that to allow for easy communication amongst co-workers, telling humorous stories about your own mistakes is a subtle method to generate good feelings and respect. For instance, if you were to encounter the following two people of equal skill set at your work, who would befriend? Would you prefer the person who maintains a serious, respectable attitude towards work at all points or the person, who works equally as hard, yet is also able to laugh at his/her mistakes? Most would choose the latter option, and scientists believe that laughter is the main factor that leads you to make that choice (Welsh). Studies have shown specifically that laughter groups naturally “lead to vicarious experiences of success, as group members observe others achieving the benefits of laughter” (Winerman). This is because when laughing in a group, there is a strong social component within that facilitates a safe environment by discouraging any negative behavior. This social bonding is predicted based on what has been defined as “the ‘open-loop’ nature of the brain’s


28 emotional centers, the limbic system,â&#x20AC;? which states that humans absorb the energy in the surrounding environment (Cackler). With better communication, there will be a greater rate of productivity and general job satisfactionâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;two key components to a successful career (Peter and Dana 26). The figure on the following page demonstrates the variety of effects that laughter has on your life, and consequently, the workplace. As portrayed, laughter enhances your productivity, by increasing energy and attention span, but also expands collaboration and team building.


29

Laughter, too, demonstrates social dominance and power in a careerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hierarchy. An experiment performed by Dr. Phillip Glenn proved that people who initiate laughter are â&#x20AC;&#x153;in a position of social powerâ&#x20AC;? (Tierney). He examined job interview recordings of 150 college students and found that when the interviewer laughed, the interviewee would generally laugh along. The interviewee rarely began the laughter and consequently, it is used as an implied signal of social superiority. However, at the same time laughter is a strong tool to use in an


30 interview to build rapport. Interviewees who responded to the interviewer with laughter appropriately were largely more successful and acquired the job over those who acted otherwise (Peter and Dana 28). Moreover, your actual success at accomplishing tasks at hand will improve if you incorporate laughter into everyday life. Your brain at positive is “31% more productive than at negative, neutral, or stressed.” You, too, are a staggering 37% better at sales as a result (Peter and Dana 28). The explanation for the sudden career and emotional boost is because of dopamine, which floods into your system when you are positive. It has two main functions: it makes you happier, and it turns on all the “learning centers” in your brain to allow you to adapt to the world in a different way (Winerman). It is, therefore, that more laughter in your work makes for good business (Cackler).


31

Part 3: A Laugh a Day Keeps the Doctor Away


32 Laughing Your Way to a Healthier Life Today, print and broadcast reporters are encouraging our enthusiasm for medicinal laughter through the generally upbeat and, at times, frothy stories that heartedly endorse laughter with tentative hypotheses that many hope to be true upon reading. However, what goes unsaid in each of these reports is a fundamental and perhaps even jarring truth about laughter: “Laughter no more evolved to make us feel good or improve our health than walking evolved to promote cardiovascular fitness” (Cackler). Therefore, the idea that laughter is a panacea for the body and soul has become so pervasive that we cease to forget for a moment that laughter has evolved because of “its effect on others” and not as a medicine (Doskoch). Nevertheless, though laughter’s original purpose did not have the intention to improve mood or health, does this mean that a ready laugh cannot also have the potential to make certain of a longer and better life? Through consistent research and examination, it seems that laughter delves much deeper into the health of a person than one originally assumes (Provine 109). In truth, laughter can be concentrated on achieving positive wellness by aiding not only your body in terms of illness of health, but to your whole being, from physical, mental, and emotional points of view (Cackler). Laughter as the Key to Mental Health Laughter plays a significant role in maintaining and enhancing everyday happiness, behavior, and mental wellness. Nothing works faster, more dependably, or cheaper to bring your mind back into balance than that of a good laugh (Provine 156). It lightens your burdens, inspires hope, and keeps you grounded; with so much power to heal and renew the mind, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is tremendously resourceful for dealing with emotional health. At its most basic level, laughter makes you feel good (Cackler). This good feeling that


33 you get from a laugh remains with you even after the laugh has subsided, granting you with a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss—making laughter the ideal medicine (Welsh). It generates positive emotions about yourself and the world around you that give you the much needed confidence and optimistic perspective. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the most “obvious effect of laughter is on mood. After all, with even the most intellectual brands of humor, laughter is ultimately an expression of emotion—joy, surprise, nervousness, amusement” (Doskotch). Laughter, moreover, can help you feel better about yourself and the world around you. Laughter can be a natural, healthy diversion, for “when you laugh, no other thought comes to mind” ("Laughter Therapy"). Consequently, laughter can play a significant role in reducing anxiety. Laughter’s ability to cause the muscles to go suddenly limp allows for a reduction in stress (Cackler). It is, essentially, impossible to be anxious when the muscles are in such a deep state of relaxation. By using laughter as a tool to reduce stress it contributes “not only to physical well-being but to finding the cause of emotional problems, because an individual is able to explore his/her sources of distress” (Welsh). Furthermore, though there are a variety of other methods to reducing stress, laughter arguably has additional benefits that no other remedy can create; laughter, once reducing tensions, provides an outlet for otherwise “unacceptable feelings, behaviors, and impulses by facilitating talking about conflicts or emotions in a safe, nonthreatening way” (Winerman). Just as laughter is able to create a new environment, it too can provide a person with a new perspective and way of thinking. Laughter helps us to think more creatively. It is noted and well-believed that “laughter loosens up the mental gears. It encourages out-of-theordinary ways of looking at things” (Doskotch). Most often, people live in the future, in the stress of the arrival of various deadlines, and


34 in a constant planning period. However, laughter puts you in the moment, causing you to make take a break from the future to live in the present—even if just for a moment (Provine 158). It, too, allows you to make a terrible situation more tolerable by inducing such positive emotions. On the other hand, it also works conversely—though it adds positive emotion, it also rids of any negative feelings. It does so by diffusing the three most painful emotions—fear, anger, and boredom—by releasing them (“7 Benefits of Laughter”). Though one might automatically be hesitant to believe that laughter can have a large-scale effect on one’s mindset, studies have shown otherwise. Intriguingly enough, those who laugh frequently are more likely to become organ donors because of the hopeful mindset they have established for themselves (Stafford). As a result, laughter can quite literally save a life. Though certainly there remains a socially appropriate time and place for laughter, it appears that we have put restrictive boundaries on the possibilities that it has. Though you can’t force real laughter, it must be allowed to happen. You have the “best insurance available when you have learned to laugh at life” (Peter and Dana 57). Welfare: A Laugh a Day keeps the Doctor Away To maintain a healthy lifestyle, one must be able to enhance their daily wellness and everyday fitness to the optimum condition (Winerman). Laughter is beginning to become a large factor in maintaining such a healthy lifestyle; in fact, laughter’s effect on the body has created a new field of study called gelotology (Welsh). It has been revealed that laughter benefits life longevity, blood pressure, the cardiovascular system, the immune system, muscle tension, life longevity, blood pressure, and reduces food cravings. The typical laughter experience involves a kind of potent, body-wide act that can be compared to that of an “internal jog” (Doskotch). During a vigorous laugh, people generally share similar actions; we “take a deep breath, throw back our head, stretch muscles of the face, jaw, throat, diaphragm, chest, abdomen, neck, back,


35 and sometimes the limbs, and exhale in explosive, chopped ‘ha-ha-ha’s” (Provine 156). This cycle is then continuously repeated. Therefore, it seems incredibly logical that laughter would provide physical benefits. Pioneer laugh researcher William Fry too saw this potential of medical mirth, and conducted a notable experiment. He found that it took “10 minutes of rowing on his home exercise machine to reach the heart rare produced by one minute of hearty laughter” (Peter and Dana 62). Also significant, some exuberant laughter produced heart rates over 120 beats per minute for intervals over three minutes. Not only does laughter, as a result, produce an exercise-like effect the heart itself, but also benefits the entire cardiovascular system (Welsh). This is because the deep breathes taken while laugh also increases the amount of oxygen in the blood (Winerman). A notable study that looked into the effects laughter has on the cardiovascular system was performed by Dr. William Fry, a Stanford researcher. He and his research group documented the significant correlation between laughter and the cardiovascular system, after observing that negative emotions are highly related to cardiac risk. Through much research, they found that laughing stimulates the “release of beta endorphins in the brain, which in turn bind with opiate receptors” (Welsh). These receptors are seen on the surface of veins and arteries throughout the body; their purpose is to release nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels. Though laughing does cure cardiac troubles, “America’s number one and three killers, heart attacks and strokes, often result from blood clots” (Cackler). Therefore, laughing could potentially be the difference between live or death. Furthermore, starting in 1985, studies begin to suggest that comedy and a person’s ability to use laughter to deal with daily events boosted antibody (S-IgA) levels. It was already known


36 that daily hassles were associated with low S-IgA levels; thus, laughter seemingly promises a “healthful antidote to life’s miseries” (Provine 167). In particular, an experiment conducted by Arthur Stone and his colleagues conducted daily saliva samples and questionnaires from subjects over a 12-week period. It was found that high saliva antibody levels heavily correlated with positive leisure and most significantly laughter. On the other hand, the low levels were associated with negative work experiences and a day with little to no laughter. It was concluded that for the highest antibody levels and perhaps even the best health, one must laugh often (and avoid fights with your boss) (Peter and Dana 63). Laughter’s effects on immunity are not strictly limited to S-IgA levels. Leading scientist, Lee Berk, reports that laughter-related defense increases in the immune system and also expands function, including the lymphocyte blastogenesis, which constitute one quarter of a person’s white blood cells, and natural killer-cell activity (Provine 171). This is due to the “eustress (desirable stress)” of laughter that lifts the immunosuppressive effects of stress hormones. Laughter can also produce beneficial physiological results, benefiting the circulatory system. It exercises the lungs and causes full action of the diaphragm, the main muscle of respiration (Peter and Dana 66). When in Doubt, Laugh it Out: Laughter as a Treatment In this age of high-technology, scientific miracles and medical breakthroughs, it just might be that something as simple as laughter is the best medicine. For many years, medical doctors have known that happy patients generally respond more favorably to treatment and recover faster than that of cheerless ones (Provine 112). Therefore, it comes to no surprise that evidence too supports that laughter, confidence, and hope have significant therapeutic value,


37 whereas sadness, fear, and despondency tend to produce negative outcomes. Often the cures attributed to humor are grouped along with mystical treatments and healing miracles; however, it is because of this that we commonly underestimate the power of laughter (Doskotch) Laughter is generally a difficult topic to analyze in the laboratory, leaving the research to date to be more limited than other scientific endeavors (Welsh). Examination of the available studies, though, portray that the physical improvements of laughter have a firm scientific bases. Dr. William F. Fry, Jr., M.D., an associate clinical professor at Stanford University Medical School, after studying the effects of laughter on health for twenty-five years, states, “without realizing it, day to day laughter may be making a significant contribution to our physical wellbeing” (Provine 108). One of the most famous cases that display laughter as a serious tool to combat illness is that of Norman Cousins. His bestselling book, Anatomy of an Illness, As Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration, tells of his miraculous recovery from “a serious collagen disease, a disorder of the connective tissue” (Doskotch). The prognosis for recovery was little to none; thus, he decided to take charge of his treatment by creating a form of laughter therapy. He noted that “one ten-minute interlude of laughter produced two hours of painless sleep” (Doskotch). It was also shown that each laughter session reduced inflammation cumulatively. After this cheerful routine of laughter, his well-being was gradually restored; ergo, Norman Cousins has, for more than fifteen years, restored and maintained good health and the theory that laughter is a miracle drug (Provine 110). Since the miraculous recovery of Norman Cousin through laughter, its therapeutic value has been studied more and more in depth (Provine 110). Madan Kataria of Bombay, India is


38 taking the possible exercise and therapeutic potential of laughter extraordinarily seriously. He has popularized an ancient yoga breathing exercise based on laughter, transforming it into a thriving enterprise—Laughter Clubs International (Winerman). The club started as simply an exchange of jokes and stories to cause laughter; however, both the quality and quantity of such jokes quickly declined. It is, thus, that he discovered you are able to dispense with the jokes, for the essence of the benefits lied in the act of laughter itself. Consequently, by simply laughing, soon everyone would join in in the “chorus of contagious laughter” (Welsh). After beginning with a warm-up in unison, the group moves on to several variations with the mouth open and closed. Followers of this successful practice seek lowered blood pressure, enhanced respiratory functions, and general fitness (Welsh). The booming success of the Laughter Club International—in part due to the fact that it was the most readily available, easy, and fun form of exercise offered—was confirmed with the numerous reports and confirmations of the successful effects it seemed to be happening on the lives of thousands (Winerman). It is from there that the power of laughter was exploited further, pondering that if laughter could be utilized to enhance daily health that perhaps it, too, could be used therapeutically (Welsh). Thus, laughter yoga was created; participants follow the leader through various exercises—much like one would in the typical yoga session. However, moves in laughter yoga include putting their fingertips on their cheekbones, chest, or lower abdomen while making stereotypical laughter noises like ‘ha ha’ or ‘hee hee.’ They do so until they feel vibrations through their entire body (Doskotch). Though this will not absolve all stresses or cure an illness, it is believed that it “improves the quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses” (Provine 114). More specifically, it enhances oxygen intake, stimulates the heart and lungs, relaxes the body muscles, triggers the release of endorphins, eases digestion, relieves pain,


39 balances blood pressure, and improves mental functions. Rigorous schedules of laughter therapy have shown that it helps to greatly improve the general sense of well-being and sleep (“7 Benefits of Laughter”). Therapeutic laughter certainly has the ability to change the health situation of a person who is chronically ill (Tierney). Nevertheless, can we completely laugh away the pain? The ability to use laughter to control pain is an idea that doctors have experimented with for years. Pain depends upon one’s perception—influenced by a variety of psychological strategies. Laughter, therefore, can control pain in four main ways: “by distracting attention, by reducing tension, by changing expectations, and by increasing production of endorphins” ("7 Benefits of Laughter”). Aches and pains can worsen and be intensified if attention is given to them. By drawing attention away from the pain, an effect best compared to anesthesia can be regulated; a laughing person, even if just for a moment, is not paying attention to the discomfort they are experiencing (Provine 89). Furthermore, laughter reduces muscle tension, and often an injury causes the muscle to unconsciously tense around the affected area, which causes increased pain. Thus, because laughter relaxes the muscles, it, thereby, reduces pain (Doskotch). Moreover, an individual’s general outlook toward life is related to pain sensitivity. Positive expectations and attitude appear to be related to pain tolerance. Lastly, “recent and encouraging evidence suggests that laughter may directly attack the pain associated with inflammatory conditions” ("7 Benefits of Laughter”). Being able to reduce pain may seem like a small obstacle in the battle against a disease, illness, or critical injury, but Dr. David Bresler, director of the University of California at Los Angeles Pain Control Unit, depicts that “pain is the most common, expensive, and disabling disorder in the United States” that often is known to also lead to depression (Doskotch).


40 Laughter, too, is able to provide miraculous results in one’s recovery ability, essentially what many seek through years of therapy. Within the notable book, A Surgeon’s Book of Hope, by Dr. William A. Nolen, he describes how patients with poor prognosis were able to make remarkable recoveries (Givens). The book attempts to discover the reasoning behind why some people live, while others, who perhaps even have a better shot at recovery, do not. Nolen concludes that “much of what determine the outcome of an illness is beyond the understanding and control of the physician,” but rather relies much on the attitude of the patient (Tierney). Furthermore, Dr. Raymond Moody supports this by suggesting through the examination of several case studies that “when a doctor dispenses laughter to a patient, he increases the quality of the patient’s life” (Provine 117). Certainly doctors should not immediately become comedians and throw aside all medical practices, but instead, it is widely suggested that at the very least, they should abandon some of their professional solemnity and encourage laughter in patients. This is a small change that can be made that has the potential to create largely successful results. Moody, in particular, recommends that laughter shouldn’t replace traditional medical techniques, but it is vital that they supplement the techniques (Doskotch). Laughter as a Treatment for Specific Illnesses Cancer Despite previous skepticism, laughter is now seen as a plausible treatment to many diseases. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in particular uses the integrative approach of a laughter regime to fight cancer (Stafford). Dr. Katherin Puckett, the National Director of Mind-Body Medicine, created the laughter program for the organization—suggesting that it helps “cancer patients and their families use and enjoy laughter as a tool for healing”


41 (Givens). However, notably the key is to view laughter as not related to jokes or humor, but rather as a physical exercise. Dr. Puckett observes that even those who do not intend to laugh in the room are laughing by the end of the exercise, simply because of the contagious quality of laughter (Tierney). To determine its effectiveness, Dr. Puckett looks to the responses of the patients; comments vary from stating that they “didn’t even think about cancer” to depicting that the laughter “session makes them feel better [and that they] feel healthy when [they] laugh” (Givens). Though one might be hesitant to leave the palpability of modern medicine behind for the abstract concept of laughter, laughter at the very least helps cancer patients focus on living, instead of dying. Struggling with the challenge of having a positive mentality despite the troubles presented by cancer is one of the biggest struggles of a patient. Laughter offers empowerment and a therapeutic opportunity by taking control of your mindset. Nelsen explains that each laughter session “you’re taking control, you’re saying it’s not controlling me” (Provine 123). Nevertheless, laughter, as supported by the case of Norman Cousins, has extraordinary potential to be utilized as a permanent and/or supplementary treatment. It aids managing and ridding of patient pain and enhanced the quality of sleep patients experienced, which studies observe lead to a higher chance of remission (Givens). Lung Transplants and Post-Stroke Laughter is particularly successful in helping both post-stroke and lung transplant patients in their recovery process (Givens). Laughter moves oxygen steadily through the body, so implementing laughter therapy appears to be helpful to those after receiving a lung transplant. On the other hand, laughter yoga was tested on stroke patients; study findings included a reduction in post-stroke depression resulting from direct damage “to emotional centres in the


42 brain, compounded by frustration and difficulty adapting to new limitations” (Doskoch). These included anxiety, panic attacks, flat effect (failure to express emotions) and apathy, often characterized by lethargy, irritability, sleep disturbances, lowered self-esteem and withdrawal, and a reduction in stroke-related pain (Tierney). Laughter yoga also affected stroke patients by enhancing mobility and worked to renew their ability to walk without walking aids. Moreover, by releasing endorphins as a result of laughter, the intensity of pain was reduced, and in some cases laughter therapy helped patients recover from “cognitive deficits resulting from stroke including perceptual disorders, speech problems, and problems with attention and memory” ("7 Benefits of Laughter”). Lastly, it also improved communication and the relations between a patient and their significant others (Doskoch). Depression It is vital for an individual who is able to laugh at life’s trials and tribulations. One must be able to take a step back from a situation and view it with a degree of detachment. Separating yourself from an annoying incident is the “constructive way of breaking the vicious cycle that causes depression” (Tierney). Each time we experience a disappointment, our mirth decreases, which in turn may have the potential to biochemically cause depression. Laughter, however, can rescue a person from life’s setbacks, and thereby allow one to escape from this emotional downward spiral—especially during periods of grief. Moreover, lack of laughter can act as an indicator of depression if an individual generally has a happy disposition. “Laughter’s mental effect is to break away the dreads and fears that constitute the basis of so many depressions and lift one out the black hole of despondency” (Winerman).


43 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) When dealing with obsessions and compulsions, therapy as a treatment for the illness is generally ideal. In the case of OCD, laughter therapy is frequently utilized to help patients gain control of the illness ("Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD."). This is because when controlling OCD, one must be able to laugh at the absurdity. Laughter, too, helps because of the biochemical changes that create a change in mood. The organization, The Other OCD, ran a study that interviewed those who utilize laughter therapy; it best depicted the aid laughter provided when one subject stated, “If I am able to see my fears as absurd, they wouldn’t scare me so much…but laughter makes me feel less alone, and less shameful about it” (“Laughter”). Laughter allows you to see and accept your fear and thoughts for what they are; being able to take a step back and laughing at your anxiety is at times the most successful way to overcome it (Cackler). In particular, an intriguing study performed by Ihtsham Haq from Wake Forest University depicted the usage of laughter as a medicinal tool to cure obsessive-compulsive disorder (“Laughter”). Dr. Haq attempted to do so by performing a clinical study on six patients—all of who had previously tried and had no success with drug and behavioral therapy. Electrodes were implanted into each subject’s brain to aid in a medical procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation. This procedure allowed Dr. Haq to discover which regions of the brain, if stimulated, would induce laughter. He repeated this experiment, stimulating these portions of the brain, for two years. Following so, all but one patient showed marked improvement; though the experiment remains questionable because of the small sample size, it definitely opens the doors to a new treatment option (Cackler).


44 Beep, Beep, Beep—That’s All Folks Choosing to include laughter in your life changes every element of who you are as a person for the better. Humans tend to be creatures of habit; most of what we consider our identity to be, is a result of a series of learned behaviors. Therefore, regular practice of laughter consistently turns negative responses into those of positive ones. Often it is not the event itself that leaves a lasting impact on our lives, but how we react to it. Laughter can make these reactions worth remembering, for “choosing to laugh does not change your life, it changes you” (Tierney). Laughter can turn a shy person into an assertive public speaker, a short-tempered individual into someone who is able to diffuse his/her anger, and a person who has hit every roadblock life can offer into a person who makes the best out of the situation nonetheless. However, it is not just a positive perspective and additional confidence that laughter grants you, but rather it works to connect you with those around you. Laughter acts as the ‘glue’ to every relationship in your life; each fond memory you create generally includes and/or is centered upon laughter.

Moreover, laughter has a powerful potential that can no longer be ignored in the medical world. If utilized to its fullest, laughter is a medicine that can benefit both mental and physical health. Through laughter therapy and laughter yoga, laughter can be used for the treatment for both physical diseases and mental illnesses. Though it certainly isn’t the next cure for cancer, it is offers a healthy therapeutic supplement that at many times can make the difference between life and death. Laughter is completely natural. It is wholesome; infinite; low in energy consumption, yet high in body energy gain; non-fattening; an activity you can practice at all hours of the day; and there is absolutely no cost. How much better can you get?


45 The truth of the matter is, laughter is one of the most crucial elements in life. It controls how we perceive each day and the strength of every one of our relationships. Thus, by recognizing and understanding laughter, each and every person will be able to optimize and enhance their lives socially, mentally, and physicallyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;allowing you to truly live happily ever laughter.


46

Afterword: Seven Tips for Increasing Laughter

1.

Find a Friend or Personable Stranger: laughter is a social signal that almost disappears when alone, so get out there and start chattingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a pair of compatible people is enough to get laughter underway.

2.

The More the Merrier: the more people you surround yourself with, the more potential there is for laughter.

3.

Make the Atmosphere Casual: time-pressed, stressed, hurried people do not laugh much; make a stress-free environment, and the laughter will follow.

4.

Interpersonal Contact: Increase the amount of face-to-face, eye-to-eye contact when within a group to maximize laughter.

5.

Be Open to Laughter: Though you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t force a laugh, if you are willing and prepared to laugh you most likely will laugh more often.

6.

Manipulate the Laughter Contagion: Knowing that laughter is contagious, hang around more people that are cheery/laugh a lot and soon you will find you will do the same.

7.

Stage Social Events: As much as we like to think we crack ourselves up, the key element to laughing is having people to laugh with; hold various social opportunities to allow you to maximize your laughter.


47

Annotated Bibliography "7 Benefits of Laughter." Be Well Buzz. N.p., 12 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2013. The source describes seven various benefits of laughter in great depth; it provided much information about both the physical and mental health benefits that laughter can potentially grant a person. It was extraordinary useful in determining what part of the body specifically targets/enhances and providing details on such. "The Benefits of Laughter." Positive Parenting. N.p., 26 Aug. 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. This website portrayed how laughter can be used to improve familial relationships, especially if in a trouble family. It delves into the many factors that can be changed and/or improved just simply by laughing. It also provides several useful suggestions on how to incorporate laughter into daily life. Berry, Karlene. "The Use of Humor in Counseling." Thesis. University of Wisconsin-Stout, 2004. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. Karlene discusses the great impact laughter can have in therapy by increasing communication and willingness by the patient to open up. The source continues to describe how not only will the relationship between the therapist and client strengthen, but the sessions, themselves, will be more productive. Therefore, it works to support the idea that laughter can be extremely beneficial in therapy. Brain, Marshall. "Laughter and the Brain." How Laughter Works. HowStuffWorks, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. This source describes how laughter works in the brain. Brain goes through the process step-bystep, explaining what is occurring at each point before, during, and after someone laughs. The scientific explanation gives a valuable understanding of how laughter is produced. Cackler, Jack. "Strangely Charming: The Science of Laughter." Stanford Daily. N.p. 28 Apr. 2010. Web. 12 Nov. 2012 This source depicts information on the effects laughter has on both relationships and health. It gives detailed explanations on the power that laughter has socially, but also highly emphasizes how it can improve oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s health. This article was especially significant because it gave informative examples of experiments performed by various well-known universities across America. Thus, it not only presented the facts, but also portrayed how scientists have proven it to be true.


48 Dahlmeyer, Sharon, and Amanda Diehl-Lelyveld. The Use of Humor in Counseling. Education Resources Information Center. Southern Connecticut State University, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. Dahlmeyer and Diehl-Lelyveld depict how laughter can be potent in both education and therapy. It argues that laughter is not only an important supplement to therapeutic methods, but vital if you want to have an open pathway for communication. The source was extremely helpful in understanding how laughter plays a part in therapy. Doskoch, Peter. "Laughter." Psychology Today. N.p., 24 May 2011. Web. 9 Nov. 2012. This source provides an overview on laughter’s effect on mood, pinpointing its impact on stress, depression, and creativity in particular. It works to fill in the gaps of many of the benefits that laughter has on mental health that were slightly unclear beforehand. In addition, they present the unique idea of laughter influencing organ donation. Fleming, Kevin. "Laughter and the Brain." Grey Matters International, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. This source gives a thorough depiction of how laughter occurs and the brain’s response at each point when a joke is being told. The comprehension of this allows for a better understanding of laughter and why it occurs. The source is detailed and overall extremely helpful. Givens, David B., Ph.D. "Laugh." Center For Nonverbal Studies, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. Givens writes a detailed study about laughter—examining its placement in speech, the neurological happenings in the brain while laughing, and an overview of the health benefits. It is a very detailed piece that covers the broad spectrum of laughter. This was exceedingly helpful to me when deciphering through the various areas of laughter. Goodheart, A. Laughter Therapy. Santa Barbara: Less Stress, 1994. Print. This source discussed laughter therapy and the beneficial effects it can have both physically and mentally; it mainly focused on how laughter can help with psychotherapy session—such as healing and releasing cathartically fear and anger. It provided much information the great therapeutic potential of laughter. Hobbes, Thomas. "The Leviathan." Oregon State University, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. Hobbes in brief discusses his view point on laughter; the source provides a vital part to the philosophical evolution of laughter by depicting his personal view pints on the ‘malicious’ social skill. It primarily acts to support the idea that laughter was originally thought of as evil and full of malice. Holmstrom, David. "The Family That Laughs Together..." Christian Science Monitor. 15 Mar 2000: 15-16. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 06 Jan 2013.


49 Holmstrom discusses how laughter can truly bond a family together, despite disputes or troubles that may be having. Additionally, it provided an immense amount of information on how laughter is used in therapy sessions to provide a more comfortable environment and allow for better conversation; thus, this creates, essentially, an overall more productive session for the client. Junkins, Edna. "The Role of Laughter in Psychotherapy." Best Bet for the Blues. N.p., 1999. Web. 3 May 2013 Junkins discusses in an extremely informative fashion just how laughter benefits a patient in psychotherapy. The source breaks it down into the emotions laughter is able to cathartically release, and the impact it can have on the patient and session. It helped to fully develop the section and support that laughter benefits therapeutic communication. Kant, Immanuel. "Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment." N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <http://denisdutton.com>. Kant describes his opinions and views on laughter; this added another perspective to the philosophical evolution of laughter; well-known for his philosophy, Kant discusses his vital viewpoint on laughter. Unlike the philosophers that preceded him, Kant believed laughter to be a positive element in life; thus, Kant’s writing was necessary in order to demonstrate this switch in opinons. Kitano, Masahiro. "Aristotle's Theory of Comedy." Gunma Prefectural Women's University, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. Kitano describes Aristotle’s view on laughter; this demonstrates yet another key philosopher’s opinions on the subject matter. Aristotle’s perspective was extremely significant because he largely spread his beliefs to society; thus, this source was an important contribution to the display of the evolution of philosophies. Kuwana, Ellen. "The Science of Laughter." Neuroscience for Kids. N.p., 15 Oct. 2001. Web. <http://faculty.washington.edu>. 12. Nov. 2012 Kuwana works to teach the science behind laughter, exploring which parts of the brain it occurs in and how it affects the perception of laughter in conversation. In addition, it gives basic background and the much needed facts about how the age at which we start laughing is vital to the understanding of laughter itself. Overall, it works to give scientific background on the matter. "Laughter." The Other OCD. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2013. <http://www.theotherocd.com/>. This source gave valuable information on how laughter can be used as a treatment, and potentially a cure, for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It also gave a great amount of information on the disease itself, which helped to develop a broad understanding of it.


50 "Laughter In Schools And the World Of Education." American School of Laughter Yoga. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://www.laughteryogaamerica.com/> This website was particularly informative in the matter of laughter and education; it worked to help create a better understanding of just how powerful laughing can be in order to learn. Not only did it describe the many benefits that laughter grants a student, but it also discussed just how to incorporate laughter into a learning environment without detracting from what needs to be taught. Overall, it provided a great overview of laughter and education and is a very useful source. Montagu, Ashley. Growing Young. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981. Print. Montagu discusses the ability of laughter to benefit psychotherapy; it explains just how significant laughter is as an aid to opening communications, allowing one to see their trauma in a new light, and moving on from said trauma. It, also, defined and discussed laughter catharsis and how important of a technique it is to use during therapy. "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD." National Institute for Mental Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2013. This source provided the much needed basic information on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It discussed laughter as a treatment and explained why it is laughter is seen as helpful to those with OCD. It, additionally, helps describe that though there is no known cure to OCD currently, there are various methods (such as laughter) to help control it. O'Connell, Daniel C., and Sabine Kowal. Communicating with One Another: Toward a Psychology of Spontaneous Spoken Discourse. New York: Springer, 2008. Print. This source provided an understanding of the punctuation effect and gave a direct definition for it. Moreover, it worked to explain how laughter works within speech and how the merging of the two creates an observed pattern. The document was mainly helpful in comprehending the punctuation effect. Panksepp, Jaak. "The Riddle of Laughter: Neural and Psychoevolutionary Underpinnings of Joy." Current Directions in Psychological Science 9.6 (2000): 183-86. JSTOR. Web. Jan.-Feb. 2013. Panksepp explains the neurology behind laughterâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;examining it both in humans and rats. This portrays that elements of human laughter can also be seen within animals. Nevertheless, more importantly, it shows by understand the common link in the brain between species that laughter has, we will be able to possibly create a cure for emotional instabilities, such as depression. Peter, Laurence J., and Bill Dana. The Laughter Prescription: The Tools of Humor and How to Use Them. New York: Ballantine, 1982. Print. This book offers a significant amount of information on all aspects of laughter. It discusses laughter in relation to humor and depicts the numerous benefits that laughter has on oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life. It mainly focuses on the improvements it can add to your relationships, health, and communication;


51 unlike many sources, it gave the specifics on how it benefits these factors within your life instead of merely stating the facts. Philby, Charlotte. "Revealed: The Serious Science behind a Baby's Laugh." The Independent. N.p., 24 Oct. 2012. Web. <http://www.independent.co.uk/>. 12 Nov. 2012. This source provided an insight behind a relatively new idea of how laughter could potentially diagnose children with disorders (such as autism or Down Syndrome) at a very young age and lead to a consequent intervention. This article, therefore, truly showed how laughter is able to literally change the lives of many for the better. Plato. "Philebus." The Internet Classics Archive. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. This text works to depict Plato’s opinion on laughter. Plato believed laughter to be spiteful and derisive, and it is in this text that it is directly described and stated. Therefore, this proved useful in adding depth to the philosophical evolution. Plato. "The Republic." The Internet Classics Archive. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. This further demonstrates Plato’s view on laughter; his negative opinions on laughter allow for an effective contrast to the modern day beliefs of laughter. It, too, develops the philosophical evolution of laughter throughout the centuries. Because Plato is without a doubt one of the most famous philosopher’s, his work certainly proved useful in this section. Price, Alan. "Why Is Laughter Contagious?" PsyArticles, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. This source discussed the contagion of laughter. It gave a detailed overview of why and how laughter is contagious—relating it to a human instinct that we cannot consciously control. It was not only fascinating, but also provided much of the information needed to develop an argument that laughter is contagious. Provine, Robert R. Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. New York: Viking, 2000. Print. Provine works to examine the effects laughter has on relationships, exploring the idea that laughter demonstrates social power. In addition, it portrays when one laughs in conversation and how that has an effect on the relationship with someone. This source, thus, provides clear details on many of the social benefits, and provide many facts as a result of experiments which Provine also provides details on. Ramachandran, V. S. "The Neurology and Evolution of Humor, Laughter, and Smiling." Medical Hypotheses. N.p., 2 June 1997. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. The source delves into the neurology of laughter and what happens in the brain when one laughs; it explains how both sides of the brain are working during the process. Ramachandran was exceedingly detailed and clear in his description of laughter and the brain.


52 "The Role of Laughter in the Good Life: A Philosophical Examination." Sewanee Senior Philosophy Essays. Sewanee University, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. This source gave an overview on the evolution of laughter and how much it has changed. Though the physical act of laughing has stayed the same, the opinions and usage of laughter has completely changed over the years. It, too, delves into the medicinal possibilities and future potential of laughter. It was extraordinarily detailed and helpful in the comprehension of laughter. Roth, Rebecca. "A Look at Humor, Laughter, Tickling And, of Course, the Brain." Serendip Studio, 13 Feb. 2008. Web. 01 Apr. 2013 This source describes the neurological happenings when one laughs; it tells of the parts of the brain laughter occurs in and affects, while also explaining what causes one to laugh. The source was incredibly helpful when deciphering the different parts of the brain and what their functions are. Scott, Sophie. "Laughter on the Brain." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 03 July 2012. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. This source provided information on the neurological information on laughter. It too discusses the importance and functions of the parts of the brain that laughter stimulates. The source helped to develop a solid understanding of the brain. Stafford, Tom. "What Makes Us Laugh." Health. BBC, June-July 2012. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. Stafford depicts what exactly makes us laugh, despite our original assumption that we laugh only at humorous statements. He examines at what points in speech we laugh at and how often it is we laugh. The interesting read provided insight onto the falsehoods of laughter that the general public assumes to be true. Stambor, Zak. "How Laughing Leads to Learning." American Psychology Association. N.p., June 2006. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. Stambor was specifically useful in the understanding of laughter in education. The source not only examines laughter in the education system, but also how it can enhance oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ability to learn. It explores a variety of ways one is able to introduce laughter into the classroom; it, too, demonstrates how laughter changes the way a student thinks by building greater emotional intelligence. This source helped to build a better understanding of the relationship between laughter and education. Tierney, John. "What's So Funny? Well, Maybe Nothing." The New York Times. N.p., 13 Mar. 2007. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. This source discusses many of the medical benefits that laughter can have. It references to an experiment that was done to prove that laughter can have significant impact on stroke patients; this was interesting, for it gave additionally details on how laughter can be successfully used


53 therapeutically. It also contained a very detailed introduction on background information of both humor and laughter. Thompson, Andrea. "Study: Laughter Really Is Contagious." LiveScience. N.p., 12 Dec. 2006. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. This source examines the contagion of laughter; it portrays how laughter doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t just affect one person, but can potentially affect a whole society due to its contagious qualities. It, also, described the development of laugh tracks and how they play of the known contagion of laughter. It was a interesting source that explained the science behind the contagion. "Use Laughter to Enhance Your Life and Work." The Laughter School. N.p., 2006. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. <http://www.thelaughterschool.com/>. This website acted as the main source to show how laughter can improve your experience in a workplace. Laughter, as it explains, affects productivity, teamwork, coworker relationships, and overall happiness. It was both easily to understand and exceptionally useful. Welsh, Jennifer. "Why Laughter May Be the Best Medicine." Scientific American. LiveScience, 15 Sept. 2011. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. This source shares the great impact that laughter can have on depression and those diagnosed as clinically disturbed. It, also, depicts that laughter can not only be used as therapy, but also the means to creating a positive therapy environment. This source was particularly useful because it explored the use of laughter as an aid to not a physical disease, but rather to an emotional instability. Winerman, Lea. "A Laughing Matter." Monitor 37.6 (2006): 58. American Psychology Association. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. This source gives the details on laughter yoga and how it works. It discusses laughter in the brain, and therefore, how with this understanding, organizations are able to create the therapeutic routine of laughter yoga. It mentions briefly the various benefits, but mostly focuses in on what it is and what it seeks to do. Wiseman, Richard. "Incongruity." Laugh Lab. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2013. In this source, Wiseman describes the incongruity theory. It was remarkably beneficial in demonstrating the meaning and providing an example to how it works. Wiseman was both clear and detailed in his explanationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;allowing for a strong portrayal of the theory.


54

Image Bibliography Cover Page (from left to right): http://arielugar.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/laugh1.jpg http://static7.businessinsider.com/image/4c53108e7f8b9a41307b0000/kids-laughing-soap.jpg http://i2.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/004/403/Girls.png http://farm1.static.flickr.com/7/10106555_d6677f5416.jpg http://thaimaiphotography.com/blog/wedding-photos/aftershoot/bic-henry/beautiful-couplelaughing.jpg http://youthvoices.net/sites/default/files/image/21052/nov/8198194181_fff57e47e3_b.jpeg http://www.wholepk.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/baby-laugh.jpg http://www.tangramhotels.com/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth800GroupOfPeopleLaughing2.jpg http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-1hjYHlcorCs/Tk-SA8MiWGI/AAAAAAAAAYk/ETRePHlz4s/s1600/People+laughing.jpg http://cortezcolorado.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/kid-laughing-300x300.jpg http://www.samoppenheim.com/photos/LaughingMonk.jpg http://a57.foxnews.com/global.fncstatic.com/static/managed/img/Health/660/371/640_laughing.j pg?ve=1 http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-DfAASDdq58M/Tzze3O1wGI/AAAAAAAAAVo/Fbs6lFoRRWo/s1600/daily-glow-12-ways-to-boost-energy-friendslaughing.jpg http://2.bp.blogspot.com/SJSe5KLUED0/TuF9h68i0FI/AAAAAAAAAGM/CSuI2PcXkEg/s1600/old.jpg http://www.kellynaturally.com/image.axd?picture=2010%2F12%2Fchildren_laughing.jpg http://www.visualphotos.com/photo/2x4371747/two_mature_female_friends_laughing_is098q8g 6.jpg http://www.wallcoo.net/photography/innocence_baby_photography/images/%5Bwallcoo_com% 5D_Baby_Photography_of_baby_Girl_laughing_ISPC006022.jpg http://thehairpin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/salad-woman-4.jpg http://molempire.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Men_Laughing_With_Salad-150x150.jpg http://womenofwisdom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Woman-Laughing2.jpg http://explore.org/photos/1751/man-laughing-gereida.jpg Page 28: http://www.laughteryogaamerica.com/services/laughter-education-733.php


Happily Ever Laughter: An Examination of the Benefits of Laughter