The View from the Mountains: When laughter becomes contagious

Published 9:29 am Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Have you ever laughed so hard you couldn’t stop and you ended up crying? This happens to me the most when I don’t even know what I’m laughing about,  which is a really weird phenomenon.

I want you to think back to a time when you started laughing for no reason so you can relate to my story.

I had some ladies over to visit a few evenings ago. Our conversations had been a bit on the intellectual side, discussing the artwork of one of the ladies and how many of the residents here are very talented.

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When it was time to call it a night, the lady sitting opposite of me suddenly jerked her head upward to stare at my ceiling.

Because it was my apartment, I wondered what was up there so I automatically jerked my head up to stare at the ceiling.

Now there was absolutely nothing up there, but by then, the next lady, then the next, and the next, all were craning their necks to see nothing.

The lady who started all of this suddenly burst into contagious laughter. I mean, the scene was ridiculous as one by one we forgot all about what was possibly on my ceiling and were laughing so hard we had to relax our wrinkly necks to catch our breath.

By then it was out of control. I don’t know which one was howling the hardest but no one could stop. This went on until we were weak and out of breath. The thing is, all it took to get this started again was just a look between us and the whole thing reached a new level of hysteria.

Listen, I have lived here in assisted living for almost four years and I have never seen anyone of these ladies practically collapse being taken over by sheer unadulterated laughter.

Every one of us limped to our beds weak and feeing sheer happiness.

Why? First of all, laughter is contagious. It is almost impossible not to laugh if someone near you is laughing. It’s even funnier if it turns out there is nothing funny.

Studies have been done proving one person who starts laughing in a group can make everyone, “catch the laugh” until it spreads throughout.

They don’t have to be laughing at something but just the laughter of everyone else. And since the experience released the hormone endorphins, we always feel joy and wellbeing when we do it.

Such was the case of the ladies who looked up and saw nothing and found it completely hilarious.

If you haven’t ever experienced this type of crazy joy, try it. I promise you, it can happen between two people, five people, a group or an audience.

Try it and tell me about it.

The view from the mountains is wondrous.

Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado. Her column has appeared in the Sun for more than 25 years.