Building community in a changing world

July 8, 2020

Can You Force Laughter?

I sure can use a laugh these days. I’ve always marveled at how actors had the ability to cry on cue. They imagine – or recall – something horrible in their life & draw upon that feeling to elicit the tears. “Memory-driven” tears. As noted in this “Backstage” article, drinking lots of water helps.

But what about laughter? Just thinking of something funny – or remembering a time that you laughed out loud – doesn’t seem enough to bring a guffaw to the surface. This article about actors laughing on cue bears this out. It’s hard to laugh in a way that seems spontaneous and sounds believable. It takes practice and you need to focus to produce the type of laugh that the circumstances dictate. Interesting stuff.

Anyway, what if I told you that you can summon a head-back, eyes-watering laugh for yourself? Wouldn’t that feel nice? I realized that I had this incredible ability during a yoga class when the teacher said midway through the session that we were about to do some ‘laughter yoga.” What? We were lying on our backs and we were simply instructed to laugh. I am pretty much game for most things, but I’ll admit I was dubious. The class of a dozen people started to laugh. At first, the laughs were forced and fairly weak. But within a few minutes, I was laying there, laughing my ass off. Genuine laughs. It felt so good.

As noted in this “Yoga Journal” article about laughter yoga, when you start laughing, your chemistry changes, your physiology changes and your chances to experience happiness are much greater. You can fake laughter and still have the health benefits – because the body doesn’t know the difference between real laughter and fake laughter. But know that often you start with fake laughter & it quickly turns into something real. Here’s an excerpt from the article with six types of laughter you can try:

Greeting laughter – Walk around to different people with palms pressed together at the upper chest in the Namaste greeting or shake hands and laugh, making sure to look into other people’s eyes.
Lion laughter – Thrust out the tongue, widen the eyes, and stretch the hands out like claws while laughing.
Humming laughter – Laugh with the mouth closed and hum.
Silent laughter – Open your mouth wide and laugh without making a sound. Look into other people’s eyes and make funny gestures.
Gradient laughter – Start by smiling and then slowly begin to laugh with a gentle chuckle. Increase the intensity of the laugh until you’ve achieved a hearty laugh. Then gradually bring the laugh down to a smile again.
Heart-to-heart laughter – Move close to a person and hold each other’s hands and laugh. If people feel comfortable, they can stroke or hug each other.