Did you know we've been laughing for 7 million years?
The Quarter Review of Biology recently published a study on laughter. There are two kinds. (Of course, Osho wrote about four kinds, so science is still lagging behind on this front…)
Thee first kind of laughter is a) spontaneous and b) stimulus-driven. The study says that just because someone is laughing with you, doesn’t mean that it is spontaneous or stimulus-driven, which is the natural kind of laugh that mirrors ape play, which arose around seven million years ago.
The second, “dark side of laughter” kind of laugh is strategic and sometimes can be cruel. "One type of laughter arises spontaneously from the perception of a certain class of events, while the other is used strategically in interaction to influence others or modulate one's own physiology," said Gervais, who is a researcher in the Evolutionary Studies Program at Binghamton University in New York. Here's where I read the article.
In laughter yoga, I aim for my laughter to always be the first kind of laughter. But I don't think this study gets at the whole picture. Laughter needs to be practiced to become part of one's life if it's been missing for a long time. That's why in laughter yoga, we encourage one another to laugh, through exercises designed to create that spontaneous first kind of laughter. Don't feel discouraged if it takes time to remember how to laugh spontaneously. It's still a practice for me. I'm even starting to laugh at standup comedy again after years of training myself to slap the table with a straight face and say in a deadpan tone, "That's funny." But it takes practice.
So come practice. Come take a laughter yoga class with me. Or come see a standup comedy show!