“A day without laughter is a day wasted,” said Charlie Chaplin. According to Laura Ingalls Wilder, “A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other one thing.”
The power of laughter is mighty indeed. Psychologists tell us a sense of humor is necessary to help us cope and even survive. Especially in times of challenge.
April Fool’s Day, associated with laughter, levity and maybe a little mischief, is one of questionable origin. Equally uncertain among great thinkers is why humans laugh or have a sense of humor in the first place. Let’s explore some of their proposals:
Why Do We Laugh?
- Taboo instincts. Sigmund Freud, the groundbreaking Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, believed that humor serves as an outlet for forbidden impulses.
- Above it all. Philosophers Aristotle and Descartes believed that amusement and laughter are humans’ response to feeling superior to another.
- Surprised by the unexpected. Psychologists A. Peter McGraw and Caleb Warren suggested that the funny bone is tickled when people expect one outcome, and another one happens instead. A violation of social norms can be humorous as long as it doesn’t cross the boundaries of safety or morality.
- Risk, reward. A more recent idea posits that humor evolved as a sort of reward after the difficult process of culling out who is or is not to be trusted. Once concerns about another’s intentions are debunked, we are awarded a light, pleasant experience.
- It’s all about sex. Evolutionary scientists believed that humor is a function of sexual selection, whereby an amusing person is considered more intelligent and more attractive to the opposite sex. In this line of reasoning, a sense of humor is essential to the survival of humanity. (Interestingly, men want their partners to think they’re funny, while women want someone who will make them laugh.)
- Social radar. Social psychologist Frank T. McAndrew may have struck the right chord by proposing that a sense of humor is a tool to identify like-minded comrades in a group of strangers. Aren’t we all just a little relieved when someone cracks a joke in an awkward situation?
The reasons humans (and even some animals) have a sense of humor are perhaps up for debate, but the fact that we need to laugh is undeniable.
Research shores up the many benefits of laughter. A good guffaw releases happy hormones, strengthens the immune system, stimulates the lungs, heart and muscles, reduces stress levels, increases the relaxation response, and relieves chronic pain. Humor therapy is invaluable in treating disease, proving that laughter really is the best medicine.
At Monarch Landing, we celebrate humor and levity, particularly in these trying times. We have always emphasized fun in every aspect, from friendships to fellowship, food and fitness.
Through our own in-house television station, we’re bringing that same spirit of laughter and fun to residents in their apartments, keeping them engaged and entertained with our full calendar of daily programs and activities. As a community, we’re virtually sharing the many memes and videos that tastefully brighten the current mood.
Even as we practice safe social distancing, we’re staying closer than ever in the joy of laughter that will surely get us through.