There's some good news for all of us who suffer from the epidemic of taking ourselves too seriously. We all have a natural built-in antidote that opens the heart, releases stress, positively stimulates the immune system, and breaks up negativity. It's called laughter.
I am sure you've had the experience in a group of friends where someone says something that strikes you as funny, and then more people start to laugh and soon everyone starts to laugh. Then, listening to everyone giggling keeps the laughter going for no reason - the "you might pee your pants" kind of laughter. When I was a kid, my brothers and I would often get into contagious fits of laughter at dinner, which went on and on, and usually got us removed from the table. This kind of spontaneous, long-lasting laughter turns out to be amazingly therapeutic.
The beauty of pure, spontaneous laughter for no reason is that it bypasses the mind altogether - it's pure joy.
This is different from laughing when you are telling or responding to a joke, because a joke requires the intellect in order to follow the story and get the punch line (and not everyone gets the punch line, anyway). This is also not about laughter stimulated by meanness or veiled hostility.
Scientists have researched and compiled a long list of benefits for extended laughter, including that it
Boosts the immune system and the circulatory system
Increases oxygen intake
Stimulates and strengthens the heart and lungs
Triggers the release of endorphins (the body's natural positive mood enhancer and painkiller)
Improves alertness, memory and creativity
(For more, check out the movie "Laughology," which you can find online.)
To enjoy the scientifically proven health benefits of laughter, we need to laugh for at least for 10 to 15 minutes. Since this doesn't happen spontaneously every day, there is the relatively new practice of Laughter Yoga (Hasyayoga), which is done with a lot of playfulness in a group. The teacher starts it off with forced laughter, and it quickly turns into genuinely contagious laughter for everyone.
Even businesses are getting into the act of offering Laughter Yoga to employees because it has been shown to not only improve people's moods, but also to measurably increase their on-the-job productivity. There are formal and informal laughter yoga groups and clubs around the world. Some meet every morning, laugh it up, practice some yogic breathing exercises and then head off to the rest of their day in great spirits.
Whether in a yoga group or spontaneously with friends, laughter for no reason does at least one more important thing - it brings us right into the present moment and stimulates the best kind of happiness with no reason at all. PJH