We all have our own unique constructs and beliefs and opinions about laughter and play and fun and joy and happiness. In this article, I combine play and fun as one pair and joy and happiness as another to capture nuances that single words would not.
I love to laugh — those of you who know me personally already know that. I remember twenty or so years ago when first studying key contributors to the field of stress management, I was so pleased to learn that one good belly laugh each day does wonders for us all.
Physiologically, laughter introduces oxygen into the body in a way that few other actions can. Laughter also exercises inner muscles that are otherwise hard to exercise. Healing on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels are often attributed to the act of laughing.
For laughter to be effective, the content or stimulus is irrelevant. Dr. Norman Cousins used Candid Camera television shows and Marx Brothers movies to stimulate laughter that promoted self-healing which he wrote about in his ground-breaking publications.
I have friends I laugh with about things that are not funny to anyone but us. We laugh with tee-hees and guffaws and belly laughs. It’s deeply healing. It’s fun. We do not need a reason — we just use and appreciate the synergy of each other.
I have another friend, a health care practitioner, who has suggested that I gather a group of laughers together and make an audio tape. No content to try to get someone to laugh. Just laughing to laugh and to laugh more. He guarantees I will sell many of these tapes because the laughter will inspire others to laugh.
If we all set out to try to agree about what is funny, we would probably argue ourselves out of laughing. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fans know Data’s difficulty with grasping what is funny to humans. My point is that it is not necessary for anything “to be funny” in order to laugh or to benefit from laughter.
Play and Fun
Placing these two words together usually generates a feeling of spontaneity that is not easy to define using a single word. Many of us “play” at our work. I once heard James Galway, one of the world’s greatest flutists, say that he has never worked a day in his life. Fun for you may feel like a chore for me and vice versa. We know instinctively if it is play or fun by how we feel — light and free and happy, for example.
Joy and Happiness
Some people like to make a distinction between joy and happiness. Defining these words differently is quite acceptable, but it is a feeling that I want to identify, so I define them interchangeably.
Joy or happiness is an energy or a feeling that transcends activities. If we are in a state of joy or happiness, we are in a state of mind and feeling that is not dependent on what we are doing, where we are, or who we are with. No matter what we do or have or do not do or do not have, if we are in a state of joy or happiness, we feel and emit a wonderful feeling that further attracts more joy and happiness. Joy and happiness come from inside us and burst from us — perhaps as a hot fire, perhaps as a warm glow. No matter how this energy may be emitted, it is more than a facade, more than a smile. It is life-giving.
Finding Our Own
Part of the fun of the human journey is finding those who resonate to a similar vibration as ours. Laughter has an undeniable vibration — and we tend to know the difference between a jeering laugh and a joyous one. I find that people often describe themselves has having a “good sense of humor.” In fact, I now find that to be such a common self-acclaimed attribute that it is meaningless. I think the discerning quality when looking for similar others is whether or not we laugh or smile at similar things.
As adults, we seek out activities and persons with similar vibrations. Sometimes for our education we may seek out very different types, often returning to “our own.” By “our own” I want to be clear that I am not referring to same skin-colored persons staying together or all Germans staying in Germany. I mean “like” below the obvious exterior, “like” spiritually, “like” vibrationally.
The Path of Joy and Happiness
We do not create joy by poking fun at or ridiculing someone or by being poked. We may learn by the “poking” that we do not want to experience more of that and learn to protect ourselves from being poked. But let us not delude ourselves into believing that poking is joy. If someone is hurt by a sharp barb, it is an act of unhappiness.
Laughter is an energy that can propel us along the Path of Joy. Joyful laughter helps to lighten the load. This is a time to lighten up with many paths and techniques and modalities. Laughter is one that is always available.