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Blog: Smiling, laughing, or ridiculous?

in English 1.6.2017 06:27 | Päivämies-verkkolehti
Smile is a prelude to laughter, and real laughter comes from the depths of the belly. If my laughter is contagious, I feel I am making the others laugh, but if the others do not understand why I am laughing, I feel ridiculous. The words in the title refer to different reactions, and the last of them does not feel good.
We used to learn that animals cannot smile, let alone laugh. We were also taught that animals’ behavior is controlled by their instincts and drives. Modern researchers totally disagree with this. They say that animals’ behavior is largely controlled by feelings and learning. Animals smile and even laugh, which is reflected in their eyes and body language. These are also the most important means of communication between humans.

A baby can cry right after birth, but can it also smile? Reflex smiles often flicker on the face of a newborn baby. If, while you are changing the diaper of a four-week- old baby, you look into his eyes and smile, you may see the baby’s first toothless smile! And if, while holding a baby who is 4-5 months old, you bring his face close to yours, laugh, and say ”boo”, you will hear a soft gurgling sound that seems to come from deep down inside him. The baby is laughing! That laughter is truly contagious!

After the first time the baby laughs, it takes about two or three years until he begins to laugh at funny words or things – or funny people or incidents. This is genuinely positive laughter that does not offend anybody.

Around ten years of age the child begins to learn empathy, which prevents him from laughing at other people for any reason whatever. He begins to understand that laughter may easily turn into ridicule and wound the other person. This helps him also to see himself in a different light, and he begins to develop an ability to laugh at himself and to use himself purposely to make others laugh. After that, he may sometimes need to ponder at which point his own behavior actually turns from funny to ridiculous.

The process of growing up makes people more serious. Research has shown that children laugh 125 times a day, often with no special reason. Adults laugh only 15 times a day, and they need a reason to laugh – otherwise they are labelled as foolish.

It is good to smile and laugh, even if some people may consider it ridiculous. According to research, smiling and laughing alleviate stress and anxiety, make the person kind and attractive, give an impression of reliability, and make the person a better leader. Smiling and laughing awaken the person’s creative powers and improve health. They boost brain function, strengthen the body starting at the cellular level, and improve immunity. Laughing also strengthens the stomach muscles. Moreover, smiling and laughing are useful for others. It has been found that even an artificial smile makes people happy. Yet, we should not hide our negative feelings under an artificial smile or laughter.

I know from personal experience that smiling and laughing make a person seem younger. I once met a lady who was older than me. She asked me if I remembered her. I didn’t, but when she laughed, my memory channels opened. I exclaimed: “Anna-Liisa, how good to see you!” I had last seen her when I was a child. 

She came into our home a couple of times to help when our mother was in hospital or somewhere. I remembered her kind and comforting smile from more than fifty years back. 

Many portions of the Bible speak about joy. On the first Christmas night the angels brought to the shepherds the joyous news of the Savior’s birth. The disciples were overcome by joy when they saw their resurrected Master. When God gave a son to old Abraham and Sarah, Sarah felt joy: “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” (Gen. 21:6).

Smiling and laughter radiate joy. But I think they are not the only ways to express joy, not even the most common ones.

Genuine joy arises from the heart as gratitude. And the greatest cause for gratitude is personal faith.

Text: Erkki Alasaarela
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen

You will find the original Finnish blog post here.

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