Photo by Cara Liane

So laughing and smiling is good for you. Yeah, no shit.

There’s plenty of science to back this up. Neuroscientists can explain that when you smile- this gland will release that hormone and these neurons will release those neurotransmitters.

Call it a symptom of Western culture, but we need “peer-reviewed, empirical research” for this stuff to be taken seriously as far as healthcare is concerned; Insurance coverage is an entirely different monster.

I use rhythm and music-making to help others heal. This has worked for thousands of years but only recently been given credence in western medicine due to research projects like this one.

But this post is not about drumming- more simple.

Laughing and smiling.

Here are two examples in the “real world” that I have yet to submit for “peer-review.”

Laughter In The Class
My supervisor suggested that I observe a class. We walked into a tense, 3rd grade classroom unannounced. The teacher was in the middle of dealing with a few disruptive children. After temporarily squashing the beef, she continued the English lesson. However, the richest lesson during my visit won’t be found in a textbook or asked on an exam.

They had been learning about prefixes so she asked the class to give examples of words beginning with “pre.” A student’s hand shot up and he offered to the class: “preacher.”

Laughter erupted from the teacher followed by the class and the kid himself. He knew this was a good laughter that can break the ice in a tense moment. The important kind of laughter that reminds you to never take life quite so seriously.

After regaining her composure, the teacher put her hand on the kid’s shoulder and responded with a sincere, “Thank you, great try. Laughter is always welcome in this classroom.”

Genuine moments like these help strengthen the human bonds in the classroom.

A Lesson In Smiling
One of my professors at Loyola is a world leader in multiple fields including Human Stress and Resiliency and Disaster Mental Health. He earned his PhD at Harvard, is a Representative to the U.N., led a Behavioral Health unit at Hopkins, has lectured in 22 countries, and wrote nearly every text in the three courses I took with him.

In short, the guy’s kind of impressive.

The courses I took with him were all electives, but he was well worth the time and money. He opened my eyes to the incredible stress system that we have inherited through evolution, a field I have become passionate about. However, over three courses and with his lifetime of knowledge and experience to share, this is the lesson that stuck with me most:

He was telling a story about some weekly lecture or training he had been leading; the details are irrelevant. He had been noticing a woman who would always walk through the door smiling. This struck a chord with him. At the start of one lecture he acknowledged the woman who was sitting at the front of the room and asked:

“Why are you always smiling?”

She leaned in close to him and said, “Because it’s contagious.”

I spent dozens of hours learning from this legitimate thought leader- with all of his credentials and awards, 100+ published research articles, consultations with some of the world’s most influential people- and the lesson that resonated most with me was a simple response he got from a student.

Keep It Simple, Stupid
Laughing and smiling are epic, brilliant, freaking awesome moments we can have and share at any time.

Credit mirror neurons, transference, an increase in oxytocin, the will of God, or whatever else- no need to define the process when you can bask in the content.

Do you ever smile mindfully?
Do we take ourselves too seriously?
Does Baltimore have a distinct sense of humor?
Has anyone really tried Laughing Yoga?
Does SNL ever have more than one funny skit each week?

Jordan Goodman is a unique combination of music educator, mental health professional, and drummer. He is currently completing a mental health internship at a Baltimore City school, helping others achieve wellness by using rhythm and music-making.

  • Ryaneverlove

    I love that I belly laughed super loud at the first line of your article on laughing and smiling