Those who know me know I love to laugh. I got this gift from my mother and I’ve passed it on to my children. It’s one of my core values.
To support my habit, since college, I have sought out comedy clubs in cities I live in and cities I visit. One of my faves is The Hermosa Beach Comedy and Magic Club where Jay Leno practices his Tonight Show bits each Sunday night. When I lived in Southern California, I was very much a regular there. I watched some of the best comedians in the world come through and entertain. When I would leave a show, my jaws hurt and my ab muscles burned, and I felt so full. Friends and laughing. What a health grenade.
I’ve thought about this a lot, this laughing thing, trying to figure out what exactly about laughing feels so healthy. How it can make the darkest subject lighter. So when I stumbled on Gaiam TV’s recent “Laughology,” I was thrilled. A documentary on laughter–well, that’s funny and overdue.
It started when journalist and filmmaker Albert Nerenberg had a series of tragedies in his life and found himself uber bummed out. When his young baby started laughing at four months, he thought, “Wait a minute. I didn’t teach her to laugh. I haven’t laughed for months. How did she learn that?”
He did what journalists do when they stumble on something they don’t understand and started to research. He found even deaf/blind babies laugh at 2-4 months. Nobody had taught them. We start out naturally laughing, then, and we un-learn how to laugh as we become old and serious, or seriously old, or–well, you get it.
Neuroscientist Robert Provine says, “We spend a lot of time trying to understand words and so little time trying to understand laughter, which is even more important.”
Way to go, Bob. One for the laughing scientists.
Now enter the laugh doctor, Dr. Magdan Kataria. Yeah, I’m not even kidding. I want go to a comedy club with this guy. Or maybe just watch him laugh. He’s hysterical. His story goes like this.
Dr. K group up in a small village and was very joyful. But he was also driven and ambitious. He wanted to become a successful doctor in Western society. In that process, he became very serious which he felt he had to do to achieve his goal. However, in the end, he found himself right there with the 80-90% of adults in Western society who are seriously stressed out–and too serious about themselves causing them to be more stressed out still. Some even say this seriousness is a form of a disorder. So he opted out of Western medicine to become a laugh doctor and help people focus on laughter.
Inspiring, right? This guy re-calibrates his priorities and decides what’s really important is to laugh more and help other people laugh more. That’s what I’m talking about.
Here’s a few other details Nerenberg found in “Laughology.”
- In a life insurance policy, it said laughing regularly can help you live eight years longer
- People by themselves laugh 30% less
- Real laughter is something you do with others
- You can get your laugh back like this: start laughing
- Laughing is contagious
- Your brain is intended to be a laughing machine–you just need to activate it
- There are laughter clubs where you just laugh
- Laughter and humor are actually two different things, recent research shows
While “Laughology” has suddenly thrown some external validation for my laughing value–some scientific proof even–I didn’t really need it. I just know after spending time laughing, something good has happened inside me that makes me feel healthy and whole.
And that’s no joke.