Gelotology...the study of laughter and humor and how it affects the body. It's a REAL science, peeps...I'm not making this sh...stuff...up! And it has been an art form for centuries, seen in the likes of Shakespearean comedy and even before Leonardo's twisted time.
So, WHY do we laugh? It seems scientists are still puzzled by this physiological response. There are many theories about the biology of human laughter, but most theorists divide these notions into three, main categories: 1. Laughter manifests as a reflex, 2. Laughter is a psychomotor response to specific stimulus that is voluntary, and 3. Laughter is a psychomotor response that is "pathological" and involuntary. What is important to note is, ALL three theories deem laughter to have both psychological and physiological restorative qualities. Laughter not only initially is stimulating to the mind and body (it increases heart rate, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration), but its final byproduct for the body is relaxation...hence the sayings, "weak with laughter", and "falling down with laughter"...the body's muscles DO relax and/or certain muscles become flaccid with laughter. Mirthful laughter (as opposed to pathological laughter...the kind of laughter the brain produces on its own in certain brain disorders) also is proven to stimulate the immune system by decreasing serum levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and growth hormone. The bottom line is, we FEEL better when we are laughing.
But I'm not writing this post merely to educate regarding the physiological benefits of laughter (I had to read many articles just to type out the above paragraph...AND, they weren't funny!)...I'm writing it to discuss the psychological benefits and to ponder the "art" and "learning" of laughter.
Comedy and humor have ALWAYS been a large part of my life...even in the midst of great stress, I have always sought out laughter as a means of positive coping...whether it be DARK humor or simple-minded (some might call it "potty humor") comedy. Let's face it...a well-placed FART will have me rolling on the floor *weak with laughter*.
I find people who do NOT laugh intriguing...and sad. And believe me, I've met my fair share of these folks. It is as if, to laugh, might betray the core structure of their personalities. For a long time, I always just assumed these enigma-type folks were mean-spirited or extremely depressed. But what I have come to know over the years of dealing with the non-laughing is, they have never LEARNED to laugh OR their innate reflex was *retrained* because of life experiences...and, consequently, they have spent little time PRACTICING humor and levity. Somewhere along their paths, the natural intrigue and wonder that makes a baby smile and laugh reflexively was lost...and they had no idea the saying "use it or lose it" would be true of humor.
I practice humor/laughter every day...it is one of the *skills* I find most meaningful and important in this game called Life. EVERY day, I look for something that might make me laugh...this is how I *practice*. I seek out thoughts, notions, interactions, experiences, people, or situations that allow me to practice the *skill* of laughter/humor. I also believe humor is a wonderful mind exercise, much like calisthenics are for the physical body...and I DO like to give my mind a workout (obviously more than I like to work out my body!).
Humor is NOT a product that necessarily knocks on my door each day and announces, "I'm here!". Sometimes I have to go looking for it...and I usually find it hidden (or in broad daylight) in the people I interact with, the blogs I read, the mischievous ways of my cat, and so on. Humor and laughter are the universal "joiners" for me...if you and I BOTH find something funny, then for that brief moment, we are meeting each other in the sacred place of understanding and "knowing"...a sometimes fleeting moment of joining intellect and human bonding.
We all perceive life and humor quite differently based on our past (and current) experiences with life/humor. For instance, some of the things I find gut-wrenchingly funny regarding statements overheard from the mentally ill, are things YOU might find appalling or inappropriate to laugh at. I, on the other hand, delight in the *dark* humor found in the seriousness of the disorder...because I am FORCED to be in it, day in and day out...because, WITHOUT finding grains of humor in such a serious subject that I am SUBJECTED to every day, I would surely lose my OWN sanity.
Sometimes when I read certain MS blogs, I find myself in tears...from LAUGHTER! Yes, even in the seriousness of Multiple Sclerosis, there is humor...and many of you practice this humor in so much of what you write. When I am reading your personal *twist* on "fugly" scarves/cooling jackets, or whizzing down the street on a scooter and "looking like a turtle driving a Ferari", I feel as if I have won a free pass into an unscripted movie...I don't need the surround sound or the popcorn to settle into my seat and feel like I am watching a wonderful comedy. And, because I HAVE MS, I can relate to the humor of the metaphors, experiences, and *dark* comedy of the disease.
I've always been pretty open and up front here on CHEESE regarding the topics that send me howling with laughter...many are the unfortunate byproduct of some of my life's most embarrassing moments! But I am curious to know, what make YOU laugh? Where do you practice YOUR humor/laughter? What feeds your funny bone? Do you search for those things in life that bring a smile (or smirk) to your face?
I once posed the idea here that I was thinking about writing a book titled, "Laughing Til I Pee", which was NOT about losing bladder control because of MS (although if/when I DO lose bladder control from my MS, I'm sure it WILL make me pee myself from laughter in an ironic, vicious cycle...sure the hell beats losing my fluids from crying though). What topics would YOU include in your own MS-related book with that title?...