This section has been slow to emerge.
There is so much out there about laughter that I’m still sorting through the literature.
Laughter impacts our brains and bodies at a primary, physical and chemical level.
Laughing, lowers cortisol, the stress hormone. At the same time laughing produces dopamine and endorphins. Laughing feels good. On a chemical level? Laughing makes us feel great.
Why do we laugh to begin with?
Typically we think that laughter emerges because we find something funny. In truth? We find things funny because we’re laughing. Robert Provine in his book: Laughter - a Scientific Study uncovered that in conversation, the person speaking laughs more than the person listening. This seems to suggest that laughter has little to do with humour. When we hear laughter somewhere else, it’s a signal to our brains to join in.
Laughter then, is a kind of preverbal confluence. It’s a way we attune our brains, nerves, muscles and bones to another person. When we laugh, all of these systems are impacted. Physically laughs come out as interruptions of sound every fifth of a second on an exhale. This physiological aspect of laughter being prompted simply by seeing or hearing laughter reminds me of a herd of antelope. When one antelope sees a threat, it’s almost as though the herd sees it with them. They react as one and begin to run. With the interruptions of laughter, people attune to each other and begin to breath as one. When a performer says that the audience is with them, it means they are breathing with them.
This has some interesting clinical applications for funny leaders and therapists. Laughter and joking are ways to get a group attuned to each other and yourself. You don’t need to be funny. You just need to add laughter to speech.
Chimpanzees also laugh. Their laughter is different. Chimps laughter is composed by rapidly inhaling and exhaling over their vocal chords. Provine suggests that human laughter has evolved from the laboured breathing of rough and tumble play.
Laughter as such is relational and based in play. Rough and tumble play is based on establishing boundaries. Where’s the line? As such, on a psycho-social level, laughter and playful joking are great ways for us to establish our limits and boundaries together.
I would suggest that one of the most important impact of laughter is an almost universal human signal and adaptation to find ways to experience what could be dangerous in a playful way.
Remarkably Foolish Video of the Week
A dog on a skateboard.
So happy to go skateboarding.
One Derful Thing
Notice your laughter.
Notice when you laugh.
Notice when others are laughing.
Is anything funny happening?
What started the laughter then?