I learned a new word today: gelotology, the study of laughter. I think I’ve found a new career. Several years ago, I ran across a phone listing for a Miss Goodness who lived on Happy Town Road, and I so wanted to be her. I bet she’s a gelotologist.
Laughter is like an apple to me; theoretically, once a day is good for you, but I didn’t realize there were scientific studies on the subject. Well, laughter has been proven to show measurable effects on heart disease, diabetes, sleep, and immune function. Who knew? Of course some of the studies employed the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and Candid Camera as the stimuli, so you can make your own judgments.
The rationale is that laughter is a form of exercise; it involves muscles, increases oxygen, and decreases cortisol. There’s a formal practice of laughter yoga. Really. Look it up.
Caution: Talk with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.
Of course, I have to present the cynical side, in deference to my brother’s voice in my head. So, although it’s the cheapest cure-all this century, just like the elixir of life in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, someone’s making money off it. Example: $297 for laughter yoga certification, with no application requirements, no test to pass, and From Zero to Laughter in 0.5 Seconds, a $29.95 value, is yours free just for signing up.
Also, some scientific critics say that it isn’t the physical part of laughing that relieves stress but it is the psychological aspect that induces laughing that actually provides the benefits. Now, I’m not sure I believe this. To prove my point, just try something – smile. I mean it, smile right now. Now laugh. It’s awkward, but don’t you feel something different? That was from the outside in, not the other way around.
So, would you go to a laughing party if you were invited? There is a directory for thousands of laughter clubs all over the world, where people just get together to laugh. There is no pressure to be funny (unlike other clubs – ironic, huh?), and you don’t even have to bring stupid movies; there are techniques. I guess your brain can’t tell the different between faking and the real thing, and eventually fake laughing becomes real laughing. You can even do it over the phone in California; there is a 20-minute telecon four times a day, at 7 AM, 8 AM, 9 AM and 5 PM on 712-432-3900, access code 607192#.
I’m going to call on Monday.