Laughing is a very funny thing. Truly, it’s a mystery in some ways, how words or an image enter into your brain, and then create this strange urge to open your mouth and let out a distinctive sound known only as a laugh, or for some unique laughers, can imitate a cry. But let me tell you a bit about myself. I’m not a big laugher, and I want to be. That’s not to say I don’t have a sense of humor, or I can’t laugh, because I actually laugh at my own jokes all of the time, which is proof that I am very funny. The difference comes in when my family, and especially my extended family on my husband’s side, all sit to watch a movie. Something will happen in the movie that is obviously funny, I can feel very amused. I can feel the smile form on my lips. I can know I’m going to want to tell someone about that scene later, but no sound. I’m a silent laugher, sometimes, unless as I’ve stated earlier, it’s at my own very comical jokes. Why does this bother me? Because when I look across the room at my entire husband’s family, they are belly laughing—bent over, wiping tears, the whole works—and I feel jealous. It looks so fun. I am often more amused by their laughing than I am at the original scene that caused all these belly laughs to begin with. And I believe I even smile bigger because of them, but seldom a sound. BORING! Which brings me to a little research, why do some people guffaw so easily while some otherwise normal people smile?

First, I want to point out that, according to Psychology Today, the fact that I laugh more at my own jokes then the jokes of a professional is not uncommon.

While we usually think of laughter as coming from an audience after a wisecrack from a single speaker, contrary to expectation, the speakers we observed laughed almost 50% more than their audiences. 

So apparently, we all find ourselves quite funny.

Second, some have said that I have a dry sense of humor because when I am not openly laughing at the hilarious stuff I say, I can say something amusing with a straight face so one might wonder if I was serious or not. In the article, Dry Sense of Humor: 20 Signs You’ve Mastered the Dry Funny Bone, we learn much about a dry sense of humor. Since I only show a few of those 20 signs, I think that the straight face I maintain at my own jokes might just go back to the fact that I don’t laugh easily versus an actual dry sense of humor. For instance, I don’t consider my sense of humor dark at all, and I truly wonder about people (family members and people I gave birth to included) that laugh at people taking tumbles, in what appear to be very painful and dangerous ways. I can’t even watch those videos. The signs I might be accurately accused of possessing though are, for one, I have had many times where I feel like people just don’t get my sense of humor, and two, on occasion, considered myself as having a high intelligence. Something generally happens soon after the thought enters my mind to remind me that this isn’t necessarily so.

Besides the fact that it looks like great fun to laugh so easily, it is also beneficial to our mental and physical health. In the article, Six Science-Based Reasons Why Laughter Is The Best Medicine, the author discusses how laughter may releases endorphins, has effects similar to antidepressants, and might protect your heart due to its anti-inflammatory effect. Not only that, but it also plays a part in our social bonds and is highly important to relationships. Who doesn’t choose friends or partners because they make them laugh? 

I need to point out though, not all laughter is the same. It’s important to note, especially at a time when our world could use a bit more kindness, that laughing at people is different from laughing with them, according to The science of laughter – and why it also has a dark side. 

We also know that positive, “benevolent humour” – “laughing with” rather than “laughing at” others – is especially rewarding. Indeed the way our brains process other peoples’ laughter seems to indicate that laughing with someone has more emotional depth and is more pleasurable than laughing at them.

Laughing can also, believe or not, be a sign of a problem or sickness. The 1962 Laughter Epidemic of Tanganyika Was No Joke tells of one of many incidences where laughter was a sign of stress, not happiness. 

The 1962 outbreak began in a girls’ school and then spread to other communities, with uncontrollable laughter affecting perhaps 1,000 people, lasting several months, and causing the temporary closure of 14 schools. Most cases of mass psychogenic illness begin with a single individual—in this case, one schoolgirl likely fell into a fit of anxiety-induced laughter, setting in motion a chain effect, until the girls around her were also engulfed in desperate laughter. Slowly, it spread beyond their school and region and into other at-risk populations.

Back to the fact that I don’t laugh out loud easily, the article, Self-deception inhibits laughter states:

Participants who scored lower on a self-deception questionnaire (low self-deceivers) laughed significantly longer and more intensely than those who scored higher on the questionnaire (high self-deceivers).

Am I a self-deceiver? Is that why I can’t laugh? What the article is saying is that a self-deceiver might feel as though laughing at a subject reveals too much about themselves, so they don’t laugh. I’m not  sure about this, and I’m trying hard not to be a self-deceiver when I say this. But what I might admit to is that when I became a mother, things somehow changed for me. Things that were inappropriate to laugh at were not quite as funny because I couldn’t hear the joke without envisioning my child being corrupted by the words, so if it was inappropriate, without meaning to, I analyzed it too much and therefore wrecked the immediate humor in it. Whether or not it is true that kids laugh 300 times a day versus adults 40 times, may be telling me that I have just become too serious, and that sometimes it’s okay just to laugh and not analyze the political and/or religious correctness of the situation, or not, I’m still analyzing that statement.

But for the most part, laughing feels good and is good for you, so whether you laugh at yourself, laugh with a friend or a spouse, laugh loud or quietly—go out and find something to make you laugh today and pass it on, because laughing is a funny thing.