The social benefits of laughter (55-Plus) - Word&Way

The social benefits of laughter (55-Plus)

“Laughter is not primarily about humor, but about social relationships.”
 Dr. Robert Provine

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”

Researchers are finding that of the many health benefits of laughter, perhaps its most beneficial by-product is the social support it stimulates.

When God created us He made us social beings (See Genesis 2:18). To facilitate relationship building God also gave us the gift of laughter.
Laughter is a God-given birthright, a natural part of the way He designed us. The part of the brain that facilitates laughter is among the first parts of the nervous system to come on line after birth.
Within a few months of being born, before an infant can speak she/he connects with others through smiling and laughing.
Laughter is the universal language found in every people group on earth. Laughter breaks down the barriers of culture, race, economic classes, nationality and governmental philosophies. No matter what differences we may have with others when we experience some­thing that is amusing we all respond the same way — with a laugh.
The expression of laughter can range from a chuckle to a loud vocal outburst, but its outcome is the same, it unites us with everyone else who is laughing.
Laughter is a magnet that draws us into social relationships. When we hear laughter we naturally move toward its source. Laughter appears to lower our natural stranger anxiety making it easier for us to develop a new friendship. This may be the reason those who laugh and have a sense of humor have more friends in their lives. It is part of human nature that everyone loves someone who makes him or her laugh.
Laughter is the glue that keeps our relationships to­gether. Laughter connects us with each other. When friends or family members share in a humorous event, be it a funny movie or a joke around a dinner table, it releases positive emotions that help us develop closeness and bind us together.  
Laugher is the power that gets us through the tough times. One of the things that sap our energy is the time, focus and effort we must put into coping with life’s problems.
Individuals with a good social support network deal much better with the ups and downs of life than those who lack such a network.
It is ironic that, for many, the Christmas season is often a depressing and tough emotional time.
Given our economic conditions this Christmas may be a more difficult and stressful time for us than in previous years.
You know it is impossible to feel angry, depressed, anxious, guilty or resentful while you are laughing. So let me strongly urge you to intentionally include more humor into your Christmas social events this year.
Here are some suggestions for adding humor and laughter to your season:
•    Smile — Smiling is the beginning of laughter and like laughter, it is contagious. 
•    Remind yourself to have fun this season.
•    Look for humor everyday. Start looking for funny things, the absurd, silly, incongruous activities that go on around us each day and laugh at them.
•    Take a “fun break” everyday to laugh. If necessary schedule it on your daily “to do list.” Read the newspaper comics, listen to a comedy CD in the car while driving, read a joke book, watch an old comedy show like “Andy Griffin” or “I Love Lucy.”
•    Collect funny family stories and jokes to share at all your holiday social and family gatherings.
By adding humor and laughter to your Christmas activities and social gatherings, you will truly make this a joyous and memorable Christmas for everyone.

Frank E. Fain is the director of senior adult ministries and educational services for The Baptist Home. Contact him at