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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Cracking up and breaking down


Five days without laughter brings new perspective to happiness

I love laughing.

I am one of those people with a weird, easily identifiable laugh; the kind that you can’t hide from.

My poor friends hear it constantly because I laugh all of the time. I am a generally happy person, and I attribute a great deal of my happiness to my ability to laugh at almost anything.

“Laughter brightens your mood even if you have to force it,” said Greg Nicholls, Ph.D., director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

Nicholls informed me of an exercise known as laughter yoga, where participants force themselves to laugh for a period of time in groups. The practice of “laughter yoga” has a positive effect on the overall mental health of those who partake in the activity.

“It shows how we can produce an emotion through behavior,” Nicholls said.

So what would happen if I were to stop laughing? I wondered. I told my friends that they would not hear my beautiful (read: obnoxious) laugh for a full five days. For those days, I would do my best not to laugh, giggle, chuckle— nothing.

Day one was a disaster. The minute I woke up, I was laughing with my roommate about how we had, yet again, stayed up way too late the night before. I immediately realized my mistake and cursed, scaring her.

That night I made the mistake of going out to eat with my friends. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing when I was with them. Some of them even tried harder to make me laugh because they wanted to mess with me. I tried many different ways to substitute laughter such as giving a thumbs up, “wiggling” and just saying the word “lol.” None of these tactics worked. Their ridiculousness just made me laugh more.

By the third day, I had cut off spending time with my friends significantly and spent most of the day sleeping. I was miserable. Every time I accidentally laughed, I would get mad at myself and mad at whoever made me laugh. Every time I didn’t laugh when I should have, I felt horrible because I could see the hurt expression on my friends’ faces, even though they knew I wasn’t supposed to be laughing.

Throughout the week I felt like a complete and utter failure. I was exhausted all the time, way more forgetful than usual, constantly angry, and when I wasn’t angry, I was crying.

To make things worse, on day four of my abstinence from laughing, my boyfriend came to visit for the weekend. He made it his job to make me laugh, and although his intentions of making me happy were pure, he only ended up upsetting me even more. That Friday was the first time he ever saw me cry, and it was over a lack of Nutella in my room.

My emotions were all over the place that week. I isolated myself from my friends and began to resent them, and my academic performance dropped noticeably. I overslept for a French test, which in my temporarily muddled mind, meant the end of the world. I was going to lose my scholarship and have to drop out of college and work retail for the rest of my life.

I knew if I could just get out of my bed and be with my friends, I’d be much happier, but I was scared to even smile out of fear of my smile turning into laughter. My friends noticed the change in my behavior by the third day.

“You were a b***h,” my friend Robert Rizzi, ’20, told me when I asked him to describe my behavior during the week.

The first day I could laugh again felt amazing. One of my friends made a joke that wasn’t even funny, and I laughed so hard I scared everybody else in the room. I felt a twinge of guilt for my laughter and had to remind myself that it was ok to laugh again.

About a week after my last day of no laughing, I was still feeling the effects. Minor inconveniences upset me way more than they normally would, and any academic slip-up felt as if it was the end of the world. Sometimes, I would even start to smile and subconsciously tell myself not to laugh.

Two weeks after the experiment, I no longer feel guilt every time I laugh, but the tiny voice in my head is still there trying to tell me to stop.

I expected this experience would be difficult for me, but I never knew exactly how necessary it was for me to be able to laugh until I had to give it up. It only took five days to realize just how different—and unpleasant—a life without laughter can be.

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