The Third Humor Habit (Part II): Laugh More Often and More Heartily

[Note: If you’re new to this Senior Humor Training series of articles on improving your sense of humor, also read the previous articles on “Senior Humor Training.”]

Laughter is the Best Medicine.

As noted in last week’s article, you’ve probably heard this phrase many times in your life.  I have no idea how long people have been saying it, but it seems to go back nearly a century in the USA.  Readers Digest, a longstanding series of published anthologies of articles for the general public, included a humor section for many decades throughout the 20th century with this very heading.

The fact that you’re reading this article on improving your sense of humor means that you’re probably already aware of the mushrooming growth of Laughter Clubs around the world these days.  We all know how to laugh, of course—it is our biological heritage, just as humor is.  But many of us are not good laughers because of our temperament.  If you’re not very emotionally expressive in general, you’re probably a more inhibited laughter, as well.

Also, many of us have lost our ability to have a real let-go belly laugh because of the difficult challenges we face in our daily lives.  Stress robs most of us of the ability to both find humor in our daily life and have a good laugh at some point in the day.  So laughter clubs get people together in (generally small) groups and cultivate the practice of “laughing for no reason.”

Chances are pretty good that there is some kind of laughter group meeting near where you live.  Try Googling “Laughter Clubs” in combination with your geographical area to see if one is meeting near you.  This will provide a powerful ally in learning to laugh more often and with a real hearty belly laugh.

Laughter Clubs vs. Laughing in Response to Humor

This is a good time to point out the difference between what laughter clubs offer and the benefits of the 7 Humor Habits Program that is the focus of this radio broadcast series.  Dr. Madan Kataria (in India) and laughter yoga proponents argue that there is real power in “laughing for no reason.”  That is, you can boost your mood and energy level, and feel better, by just forcing yourself to laugh—even if there’s nothing to laugh at when you first start.  Since Laughter Clubs do this in the presence of others, the social contagion of laughter soon takes over and the laughter begins to take on “a life of its own.”  It stops feeling artificial (for many, but not all participants) and becomes a genuine laughter experience at that point.

From my own vantage point, this shared laughter experience also quickly puts people in a more playful mood—which, as we’ve already seen is the key prerequisite for finding humor in a situation.  The laughter causes a shift out of a serious mood into a more playful one, and at that point many people start finding genuinely funny things (e.g., the faces of the other laughers, or the unexpected funny things they start doing while laughing).  So this laughter, that starts out as forced laughter, may well activate the frame of mind where genuine humor lives—and this is one of the main goals of the 7HHP training.

A limitation of the Laughter Club approach is that—as you know from your own experience—it is not always appropriate to just start out laughing for no reason in many situations in your daily life.  You will get some strange reaction if you start out with laughter yoga’s familiar “Ho-ho, ha-ha-ha . . . ho-ho, ha-ha-ha.”  This will be especially awkward in many stressful situations.

But there are never any limitations to the social appropriateness of your thoughts.  There will never be any obstacles preventing you from seeing the absurdity, incongruity or any other funny aspect of the situation.  The key goal of the 7HHP is to cultivate your sense of humor to the point that the habit of finding the funny side of things is developed to the point that you can see a light side of things in the worst of situations.

There is virtually no research on the impact of “laughing for no reason” on health and well being at this point, but once this research is completed, I do expect it to show that laughter yoga exercises do a wonderful job of helping people manage their mood and keep a more positive focus in their daily life.  There is every reason to believe that when you combine humor with laughter—so that the laughter is in response to your mind’s ability to find things that are really funny to you—the benefits of laughter will be all the greater.

And remember, we have decades of research documenting the extraordinary power of humor in helping people cope, as well as a rapidly mounting body of research documenting the health benefits of humor, so why not cultivate the whole enchilada—humor and laughter!

In the coming week, then, keep on looking for opportunities to exaggerate your laughter when you find something funny in your daily life.  The habit of laughing more often and more heartily will gradually emerge as you push the envelope and laugh harder and longer than you normally would.  After a couple weeks of this, a naturally stronger laugh will emerge.

For a more detailed and systematic guidelines for boosting this Humor Habit, see the manual for the 7 Humor Habits Program in my book, Humor as Survival Training for a Stressed-Out World.

Copy right owned by Paul McGhee.  This article may not be reproduced without written permission granted by Paul McGhee.