In my study of my five senses, I’m exploring how our five senses keep us attuned to other people. Nothing matters more to us than other people!
For one thing, we’re always listening for people. From the moment of birth, we prefer sounds that are like speech, and in the brain, vocal sounds generate more neuronal activity than non-vocal sounds.
To help us connect with other people, we have conversation, and we also have laughter. I’m surprised by how often laughter is ignored in works that examine speaking and listening, because laughter is a universal human behavior—and it’s all about engaging with others through sound.
It turns out that the main purpose of laughter is to bind people together. We’re far more likely to laugh when we’re with other people, and we’re more likely to laugh when we’re with friends than with strangers. Alone, we might smile or talk to ourselves, but laughing is something we do to send a signal to others. It’s highly contagious.
Since learning about the importance of laughter for human connection, I’ve asked myself: What can I do to bring more laughter, more light-heartedness, into my life—and in this way, engage better with the people around me?
To raise the amount of engaged laughter in my life, I recently wrote a Manifesto for Laughter:
- Smile more.
- Poke fun at myself.
- If I hear people laughing, ask, “What’s funny?” so I can join in.
- Point out the ridiculous and the absurd.
- Look for a gentle reason to laugh during a tough conversation, to lighten the tone.
- Cultivate inside jokes—as the hilarious writer, actor, and director Mindy Kaling points out in her book Why Not Me? (Amazon, Bookshop), “The best kind of laughter is laughter born of a shared memory.”
- Make callbacks by alluding to a previous comment or joke.
- When someone else laughs, respond.
- When people are laughing, linger in the moment; don’t rush through it.
- If I’m watching something funny on TV with other people, laugh out loud; we’re more likely to find something funny if we know someone else finds it funny.
- Be silly.
- Read funny books and watch funny TV shows.
- Remember, it’s funny because it’s true.
What would you add? What concrete strategies bring more laughter and light-heartedness into your life?