Believe it or not, April was slated as “National Humor Month.” It’s also National Soft Pretzel, Fresh Celery and Welding Month. Yes, really, and while it’s nice to have a pretzel or celery stick while we’re welding once in a while, it would seem that each month would do well to be imbued with a little humor and it’s faithful cohort: laughter.
Laughing simply feels good and besides being a decent cardio-vascular exercise, it also increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies while simultaneously releasing the body’s natural “feel good” chemicals, endorphins, which promote well-being and the temporary relief of pain.
Nevertheless, behavioral biologists have been perplexed by laughter. Specifically, how and why laughing developed. Recent, more simple ideas emerge from what is called the Social Brain Hypothesis. Basically, this idea holds that our brain developed and evolved not to solve problems of hunting or cooking but to assist us in coping with the challenges of living in larger groups. Essentially, if we are a bonded and cohesive group, our survival and success rates improve and what better social lubrication and glue than the common language of laughter and humor?
Think of your closest peer group or a loved one—in certain social situations, we don’t even have to say anything to burst into laughter because our understanding of what represents “funny” is hard-wired. Undoubtedly, this is one of the reasons we love being with our closest friends and why we can pick up where we left off with them after long stretches of time apart.
There’s nothing quite so rewarding and intimate as a shared understanding of the world around us, a lens and a language that is distinctly unique to “us.” When that understanding contains laughter, we reap all the physiological and psychological benefits of a shared sense of humor. When we make someone laugh, they are effectively saying, “I see you. I see you as funny.” Laughter is then, perhaps, the link to our earliest social and cultural bonds. Recently, a new acquaintance had me #lol over something he had said. I realized a lot of people wouldn’t see his comment as funny at all, but the simple realization that two relative strangers were finding the same thing hilarious seemed to hold all the great mysteries of life within it. May this Spring find you laughing and amidst those who make you laugh.
Michael Schroeder, Lead Counselor, MA, LMFT
Michael received undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Printmaking from the University of California Santa Cruz. He then studied graphic and furniture design at Parsons School of Design in NYC and trained as a Yoga Instructor at New York’s Integral Yoga. For many years, Michael worked as a fine artist with gallery representation in New York City and Santa Fe. Art led him back to psychology, and he received his Master’s Degree from Pacifica Graduate Institute, graduating summa cum laude. Michael has strived to maintain the connection between art and psychology in his career and personal life. He is a licensed psychotherapist (LMFT) in California and New Mexico and has worked extensively with couples and kids.