Sunday, April 22, 2012

Laughter: Part 1

Sunday Service Discussion Notes for April 22, 2012

Last Sunday we began a discussion on Laughter. 

We all agreed that laughter is definitely good for you: a vast body of research shows the mental, physical, and psychological benefits.

We discussed how a rather opposite emotion, anger, is like a poison in our system, and that laughter helps us dissipate this bad energy and "get the poison out." It is so effective in reducing stress and improving health that the practice of Laughter Yoga has caught on all over the world.

As we are all individuals with different personalities, we acknowledged that some of us are more naturally inclined to finding humor and laughter in life than others. We noted that it was important to find sources that will bring you laughter and cheer if you are not easily able to summon them on your own. Perhaps some form of entertainment, music, images, or even another person you like to spend time with can make you laugh and put you in better spirits.

We discussed how even hearing the sound of others' laughter elevates our mood, and the phenomenon of contagious laughter. It is even possible to influence other people with laughter; making people laugh puts them at ease, and they are then more agreeable and likely to listen to what we have to say.

A study was performed where groups of participants were asked to hold a pencil in their mouth using their lips or teeth in various ways, with some methods causing them to use their facial muscles in the same way that they would be used during a smile, while other methods mimicked the muscle movements for a frown or neutral expression. These groups of people were asked to watch various video clips while they did this, and then were asked to rate the videos with regard to how happy the participants were while watching them. The people whose facial muscles were being pulled into a smiling position rated themselves as much happier than the people whose faces were not in the smiling position, regardless of the content of the video. This result suggested that the physical act alone of forming our facial muscles into a smile actually makes up happier. The lesson: start smiling and happiness will follow.

We agreed that we need to allow ourselves to be happy; that we cannot expect other people, things, or external forces to make us happy. Happiness comes from within.

One participant told a story of a man who was diagnosed with cancer, and who became very depressed upon learning this news. He moved to Hawaii, but continued to feel down. A friend of his saw that he was in need of some happiness and suggested that he go to some of the local comedy clubs. Eventually, after his friend kept at him about it, he relented and went to the club. Soon he was attending again, and again. He became a regular attendee and began to really enjoy himself, and before he knew it, a couple years had passed and he realized that he was no longer depressed and was really enjoying life. Just adding laughter to his life had lifted him out of his depression.

Another participant talked about how her father was able to help her family endure World War II in Europe. She said that he always had an interesting way of observing the world and was able to use this talent to make up funny stories to tell the family, which raised their spirits during a fearful time.

UMS founder Damien Simpson was quoted as saying
"Where your consciousness is, ye shall dwell also."  
If you are laughing, you will be happy. This seems like an obvious statement, but it is well remembered when we are felling stress, depression, or loneliness. If we can find laughter, we can find a way out.  We agreed that we should try to find humor in any situation, even a bad one, and that we should not take ourselves too seriously.

We discussed how it is important for each of us has a unique sense of humor; that what makes one of us laugh may not do so for our neighbor. It is good for us to seek out others who share our sense of humor so that we will more often be in environments that promote laughter and fun, which will mutually benefit ourselves and our companions.

We did note that there are occasions when laughter can actually be detrimental, and that would be when it is malicious or comes at the expense of others, like laughing at someone who has fallen down.

One question that was raised was: Is there a way to see light or humor in life if you don't feel that you naturally have that ability?  We decided that we would take this idea away to think about and discuss our thoughts on it in a future session.

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