Laugh it up on World Laughter Day

THANE BURNETT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:25 PM ET

Hear that silence?

Is that society beating laughter to death?

Psychologist Steve Wilson — who’s centered his entire career on the study of busting a gut — says there’s increasing pressures in western culture to muzzle laughs.

Sunday marks World Laughter Day, an annual event you likely thought your kids just made up.

On Parliament Hill, Sophie Terrasse of the Sunflower yoga institute (www.sunflowerinstitute.ca), hopes hundreds of people will show up at 11 a.m., to burst out in cackles and chortling.

Terrasse says it’s a way to bring joy and peace to the world. She hopes to do better than last year, when the event drew fewer than expected as it competed with another local tourist draw.

But Wilson, an Ohio based lecturer who specializes in promoting the health benefits of hysterics (www.worldlaughtertour.com), says our order-loving society often ignores laughter, as well as research that’s found it may be a fountain of youth.

“He who laughs, lasts,” stresses Wilson in a stress-free way.

New research out this week found a hearty chuckle is as good as exercise in promoting an appetite. The study could lead to getting sick patients to eat more.

“We’re hardwired to laugh — even people born blind with no hearing laugh,” Wilson points out.

In fact, researchers have found animals — from monkeys to dogs to even rats — display a similar way of displaying amusement.

“But laughter has gotten a bad rap in society,” he tells QMI Agency.

“How often are we told, ‘Don’t laugh in church, or school or the movie theatre?'

“Work is exalted, while amusement is forbidden. That is becoming ingrained.”

Despite pressure not to laugh too loudly, it remains our social glue. Studies have found only 10% of our chuckles come via jokes or funny images. Most of the time we laugh in conversation with others, to show an understanding or set people at ease.

Cavemen may have done it as a way to tell tribemates they could relax from danger. Though, a flying lizard then carrying someone off can have a dark humour about it.

The 69-year-old laughter expert says he understands the world is not always a funny place. In fact, his long list of things mankind contends with is too long to depress you with.

But Wilson figures if humans don’t find reasons to laugh more — on World Laughter Day and beyond — then the joke’s really on us.

But then, that’s what she said.


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