Laughter is probably an integral part of your life, if you are as happy as an angel or merry as a schoolboy. As they say, laughter is the best medicine, and I believe it is a good prescription for the gloomy Gus. Watch the video below of Alastair Sims in the 1951 film, Scrooge, and you’ll see what merry as a schoolboy is all about. I defy you not to laugh while watching this changed man. The hilarity ensues at about the 3:00 minute mark. Watching this is my favorite way to get in the Christmas spirit.
Laughter Is Its Own Language
Feel better after seeing that? That’s the power of a laugh.
Laughter is its own language that is understood in any language. An American laughing in New Guinea will soon find the locals joining in. A laugh spreads as easily as a virus. Robert Provine has been studying this subject for more than a decade, and he tells us,
I concluded that laughter is primarily a social vocalization that binds people together. It is a hidden language that we all speak. It is not a learned group reaction but an instinctive behavior programmed by our genes. Laughter bonds us through humor and play. However happy we may feel, laughter is a signal we send to others and it virtually disappears when we lack an audience.
But it is highly difficult to force yourself to laugh spontaneously. And that, says researcher Sophie Scott, is why there has been limited research.
…it is exceptionally difficult to make people laugh in the lab. This is partly because we normally laugh in social settings — social settings that can be extremely hard to re-create, for example, in a sterile anechoic chamber. But we need to use the anechoic chamber to make good, clear recordings of people laughing on their own, uncontaminated by the sounds of other people. As with live TV shows and comedy clubs, we “warm people up” by spending time with them, watching stuff and laughing together, until we’re ready to throw them into the chamber to start recording their mirth. There is some science behind this: Laughter is contagious, and it’s much easier to make someone laugh again if they’re already laughing. So we try and get groups of people to come in at once, and if possible, groups of people we know, and who know each other. We are thirty times more likely to laugh if we’re with someone else than if we’re on our own, and we’re more likely to “catch” laughter from someone we know than someone we don‘t know.
Scott says there are a few types of humor that typically made her subjects laugh. The next time you need to jolly up, if old Alastair Sims doesn’t completely get you in the mood, check out these examples provided by Scott: