“Laughter is timeless. Imagination is forever. And dreams are forever.” – Walt Disney
Despite this strong belief of one of the greatest entertainers the world has ever known, studies have shown that adults, on average, laugh 60 times less than children. Why such a big difference? Can life’s cares be so weighty that we forget our laughter as we progress through the years? Is life so disheartening that the edges of our mouths tend to curl down more often than curl up? Or is it just a sign of maturity that we do not laugh at seemingly “childish” things?
Whatever it is, it deserves a closer look because happiness is often the child, as well as the mother of laughter; and happiness is something we definitely cannot afford to ignore in our lives. After all, isn’t life all about the pursuit of happiness?
Cares and Responsibilities
As a child grows into adulthood, life’s responsibilities tend to escalate with age. A three-year-old finds cheer in nearly everything, while for a 93-year-old, it is very much the same. Is there a “bell curve” then, something that charts our behavior through life?
Several similarities can be drawn between a child and an elderly person: both have fewer responsibilities to deal with, both have open minds that accept new viewpoints easily and eagerly, and both have fewer teeth! But jokes aside, there are so many things that these two seemingly opposite groups of individuals have in common (including how frequently they smile or laugh) that it is hard to ignore.
So where does this sense of responsibility creep in and take all the fun out of life? It’s worth investigating.
The Age of Reason
The age of reason is something which is relevant to this discussion. Popular Catholic Christian faith puts this age at 7 years old, while other cultures put it at different ages. It is fair to say that the universal age of reason is between 7 and 13 – the first of the “teen” years. This is when human beings supposedly start taking responsibility for their thoughts and actions. Is this the age, then, when laughter starts taking a downward curve on the graph of life?
Hard data shows that laughter peaks at around the age of 5. So does this mean that we start becoming grumpier and grumpier once we hit the tender age of 6? This, too, doesn’t stand to reason. So, when does laughter start to dwindle?
Studies have shown that peer pressure starts playing a major role in our teens, and keeps increasing as we join the “race of life” and try to keep up with the herd. Humor, therefore, can be influenced by our peers.
What our friends find funny is generally what we laugh at, too. We all know this; in fact, it’s so true that humor often decides who we become friends with in the first place. Whether or not humor precedes or succeeds friendship, however, is not the point of discussion here. The relevant point is that we laugh only as much as our friends do, for the most part.
The End Result
As our age progresses, we get caught up in life’s responsibilities – school, exams, college, competition, jobs, work, careers, material things, etc., etc., etc. It is possible that while our humor remains intact through these formative years, our ability to laugh gets curtailed by the society around us.
People of all ages who tend to laugh more than others are seen as jokers – and not in a good way. This puts pressure on young adults to “maintain a serene demeanor” at all times. Laughing out loud in public is often considered “inappropriate.” In fact, as we grow older, there are more reasons NOT to laugh than to laugh. All of these things conspire together to turn us into The Grinch, as Theodor Geisel, (more famously known as Dr. Seuss), so eloquently portrayed.
Now that we’ve established that age – or the progression thereof – indeed plays a role in reducing our ability to laugh, we should next explore ways in which to arrest and reverse that natural (or socially induced) process. Here are some ways in which laughter can once again brighten our days and bring us hours of joy and add years of good health to our lives:
Did you ever wonder why comedy movies are so popular with the general public? True, there are followers of other genres, but comedy is universally loved. This is validated by a study in 2008 which showed “Shrek 2” to be the third highest grossing film of all time, raking in $437.2 BILLION at the box office! The movie was animated, which contributed to its success, but a closer look showed that 32% of the film had the element of comedy in it. After all, a movie with Mike Myers AND Eddie Murphy can’t help being funny!
Historically, comedy and fantasy have been the haven of people in times of war and crises. Take the phenomenal success of Charles Chaplin during the Great Depression; or the fame that “Laurel and Hardy” still enjoy. These black-and-white era comedy actors provided a depressed and oppressed public with the only medicine that they could bring – laughter.
So watching a funny movie can do wonders for your sense of humor, not to mention that it will help bridge that gap we talked about between children and adults.
2. Developing your Own Sense of Humor
But watching funny people on film isn’t the only way to have a good laugh. One of the best ways to develop a healthy sense of humor is by learning to laugh at yourself. You don’t necessarily have to make fun of yourself, but finding humor in your own behavior, looks and habits can help you find laughter in everything else. Besides, laughing at yourself is a sure way to a healthy mind.
Consider this one-of-a-kind study by students from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Zurich. The subjects were 70 students of psychology, and they were assessed for their ability to laugh at themselves. This is what the study confirmed: the ability to laugh at oneself is a unique quality, and the people who are good at this have more positive personalities and tend to be in a good mood more often. But what’s really interesting is that this ability was also believed to be the foundation upon which to build a solid sense of humor.
So then, although we know that the progression of age tends to make us laugh less and less, we now have two simple tools that can reverse that process – watching comedy films and laughing at ourselves. If you think that’s oversimplifying things, go ahead – laugh at me!