What a pleasure it is to smile, to laugh out loud! How nice we feel after some good laughing! How therapeutic it is to use the sense of humour at any situation! How much we learn when we are having fun!
Last weekend I attended & very much enjoyed a training session about pedagogy. The person in charge invited us continuously to get into the pedagogy of humour & laughter. Through group dynamics we were practising how to play and how to use joy & fun as vehicles for learning & for fixing concepts into our minds. Just like children: learning much more effectively when having fun.
When did we leave those children then?
I remember reading quite a while ago somewhere that a child laughs between 300 and 400 times a day, while an adult only laughs between 15 & 100. That statement was quite shocking to me. Do we adults really laugh so little? And if that’s correct, what lead us to stop laughing?
Laughter is pleasure & health. The abbot Jorge de Burgos shouts at his monks in this scene of The Name of the Rose: “A monk should not laugh! Only the fool lifts up his voice in laughter!”
Jorge de Burgos wants to live in pain, in silence, devoted to sadness & grumbling, to the toughest inflexibility. Or maybe to secrets too…
Today we know that:
* Humour helps us connect both brain hemispheres. The left one interprets the verbal side of the joke while the right one decodes it to say if it is funny or not.
* We laugh 6 times more when we are in the company of others than when we are alone and 30 times more when we are within a group.
* Laughter releases endorphins (known as the hormones of wellness & happiness), with the same effect than an intense exercise session.
* Dr Michael Miller from Maryland University (USA) proved in a study that laughing can improve blood circulation and the conditions of the cardiovascular system.
* 15 minutes of laughter is equal to the benefits of 2 hours sleep.
* Laughing brings down the levels of cortisol (hormone of stress) in our body, a substance that paralyses & blocks the immunological system.
* A study developed at Vandervilt University showed that laughing burns a bit more than 1 calorie per minute.
The benefits of laughing in our lives continues. It:
• Generates satisfaction & wellness
• Improves productivity
• Facilitates interpersonal relationships
• Reduces boredom & tension
• Eliminates anxiety
• Increases self-esteem
• Stimulates imagination & creativity
• Reduces worries & fears
• Raises the level of pain tolerance
• Eases digestion & detox processes
• Strengthens our immunological system
• Prevents illnesses
• Provides vitality & energy
• Increases brain activity
And this is just for starters...
It does not matter which language we speak, we all laugh in a very similar way in every corner of the world. So laughter connects us and makes us feel better. Also, in difficult times, like the current financial crisis for many of us, laughter can become a liberating element, even with so many people that we see or listen to in the media striving to make us feel very serious about everything, directing us to be very circumspect, worried, scared, very very scared indeed… Just like Jorge de Burgos in his medieval abbey, hiding the truth between the intricate twists & turns of a mysterious library, that only he has access to.
I think it has been a while since that tumultuous XIV century, that the magnificent book by Umberto Eco portrays (and also the fabulous film from 1986 by Jean-Jacques Annaud). Let’s have a good laugh, shall we? Whatever anyone says.
"Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.
Do not take away the rose,
the lance flower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.
My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.
My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh, because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.
Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.
Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
but never your laughter
for I would die."
(Your laughter, by Pablo Neruda)