The Importance of Laughter

I was reading an old post on FB this morning by Anne LaMott, one of my favorite authors/teachers/humans. It was a post about what we want to hear when we are down and out, laying on the floor, face down in the dirt, from people who (supposedly) want to help. It was about extending empathy, not tired old cliches. But one thing she said, which was far from cliché, really struck me.

These were her words:

I want someone to remind me that laughter is carbonated holiness.

God, I love that thought. Carbonated holiness. What a description for laughter.

I didn’t know until I was slightly past middle age, free of a terrible marriage that contained NO laughter at all, how important laughter in my life was to me.

It started with get-togethers with my good friends up north, friends who had been through it all with me, and suddenly feeling light enough to join in the laughter around the table with a drink, or without one. Feeling free and not guilty at all to enjoy life, to stop wondering if I should be laughing, or if it was bad if someone was laughing at me or something I said. Just relaxing and having fun. It was such a foreign concept to me. Fearless laughter.

It sent me for such a loop that I think it might be one of the reasons I fell for a guy who made me laugh, despite the fact that he proved over and over that he was not real relationship material. There was a lesson to be learned there, which is don’t give yourself away for cheap. There’s a lot more to be had in a relationship than laughter. But, just saying, that’s how good it felt to be able to laugh.

Laughter remained important. I dated a number of men who were decent enough men, but boring. Meaning, they had no sense of humor. I am surprised still how many people have no laughter in their lives. It’s sad.

Enter Dan, who makes me laugh hysterically but also makes me feel loved, and cared for, and respected.

It’s not just in relationships with the opposite sex in which it’s important to me. I tend to find it easy to become friends with people who are unabashedly able to laugh at themselves, and even at others, without a mean bone in their body. With my friends up north, the friends of my adult lifetime, and with my new friends here, laughter is what you hear when you walk up on us talking. We are laughing. At ourselves, at each other, at life.

Laughter is soothing. It is lifting. It gives us a moment, even if it is just a nano-second, to remember in our darkest hours that we will bubble up again, and the darkness will pass, and there is light outside the darkness. It is joyful and hopeful.

According to Lindsay Wilson-Barlowin laughter is absolutely good for our physiology. She says in the referenced article:

Gelotology is the study of the physiological effects of laughter on our bodies. Laughter, in simple terms, can be described as a total body, physiological response to humor. Similar to aerobic exercise, a hearty laugh involves contraction and relaxation of facial, chest, abdominal and skeletal muscles, easing muscle tension and spasms that create chronic pain. Within the first ten seconds of laughter, fifteen facial muscles contract and relax while stimulation of the zygomatic major muscle (the main lifting mechanism of your upper lip) occurs.

Heart rate and pulse elevates; respiration rate and ventilation becomes irregular as an effect of the epiglottis half-closing the larynx. The normal cyclic breathing pattern is disrupted; this causes increased ventilation, clearing of mucous plugs and accelerating the exchange of residual air (which will boost blood oxygen levels). In extreme cases, the face may become red or purple. Studies have shown that simply twenty seconds of laughter has the ability to double heart rate for the following three to five minutes. As a result, Cousins described laughter as “a form of jogging for the innards.”

It is indeed carbonated holiness.

I have a sign, given to me when I moved here, above my back door that says “Live, love, laugh” in a seaside motif. When I first went to Dan’s condo, I found he had the same sign on one of his walls, done differently, in bold black lettering, contrasted against a white wall, each word on it’s own shelf. I suppose it too is a cliché, we see those three words all over the place from bumper stickers to decorative throw pillows. Yet…the three words strike a cord with me.

Laughter is right up there with living and loving. Is there more than those three things to point the way to a rich and fulfilled life?

Live. Love. Laugh.

Ok….I will. I promise.

As ever, love and light, and laughter, to all.

6 responses to “The Importance of Laughter

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