By William Thomas

On what was once a peaceful planet and now appears to be our solar system’s biggest crime scene — the world is in need of humour.

Whereas laughter was once a bit of a bonus, it is now a vital ingredient to a happier, healthier life.  No longer a luxury, laughter has become a necessity today.

Given the complex workings of the human body, the immediate benefits of a good bout of laughter are quite remarkable. First, the heart rate drops and blood pressure eases off. More oxygen is added to the blood and then endorphins are released in the brain characterized as a “natural high.”  A calmness takes over the brain assisted by the fact that when you’re laughing you can’t possibly be worrying.

Studies show that laughter boosts the immune system helping to fight off infection. People who laugh a lot get fewer colds and have a higher tolerance of pain because of the immunoglobulin produced in the process.

But it’s got to be a good laugh, eh? Not a tepid ha ha — “don’t bend over in the garden, Granny, you know them taters have eyes” — kind of laugh. This is the kind of belly laugh you get while retelling the story of how your husband while teeing off at the Humane Society Golf Tournament took a mighty swing, ripped his pants, fell down and made a noise that frightened the “Adopt Me Dog of the Week.”

Dr. Madan Katria of Mumbai, India, believed laughter played such a vital role in boosting the morale of people living in the slums of Mumbai that he started a laugh club. Each person brought a piece of humour and the hysterical response of the group produced better benefits than therapy.

In the workplace, laughter lightens the mood and boosts morale, thus reducing stress. Humour in a place of business creates camaraderie among employees and wards off burnout. Most employees rate a pleasant and happy work environment higher than a wage increase when listing reasons they like their job.

But you have to be very careful. Humour is perilously subjective. As American humourist Ray Blount Jr. was fond of saying: “A good joke is like a hefty sneeze. If it’s any good at all, somebody’s going to get some on them.”

Choose your victims wisely. The best victim of humour is always you. Self-deprecating humour, poking fun at yourself is a solid and safe form of humour.

The next best victim is us. All of us. Observational humour that takes all of us to task for our human foibles is safe by inclusiveness.

The biting satirist Mark Twain was funny but inoffensive because he held all humans to the same (low) standard. “Familiarity,” said Twain, “breeds contempt … and children.”

Twain’s stress-reducer? “When angry, count to four. When very angry swear.”

To get more laughter in your life and humour in your workplace, be creative. Some hospitals in the States have “humour carts” full of everything from rubber chickens to water pistols to remind the sick that fun should be part of their healing program.

Proudly, Canada funds a group called “Clowns Without Borders,” high powered executives who on their own time and dime, don clown costumes in war zones around the world to teach children how to smile and laugh again.

Laughter, a weapon of mass resurrection. Nearly a century and a half ago, President Abe Lincoln understood the benefits of humour. “Gentlemen,” he said to his cabinet members, “Why don’t you laugh? With the fearful strain that is with me night and day, if I did not laugh, I should die.”