It's no joke: Laughter is powerful medicine.
It strengthens relationships, reduces mental stress, builds immunity, improves job performance—and there's a bonus. Laughter therapy is instantaneous, requires no prescription and doesn't entail leaving your house. Laughter is a potent remedy.
Anyone stuck in a pandemic funk right now?
Humor eases fear.
Use humor to combat fear by changing your perspective on situations. We're amid a global pandemic. It doesn't mean the circumstances we're going through are lighthearted, but it can shine a new and different light on something dark. Let's face it: Walking in the grocery store and seeing everyone wearing masks and gloves is slightly terrifying. However, I've run across a multitude of protective facial and body gear that had me laughing hysterically.
A quick Google search or swipe on social media will lead you to pictures of people sporting everything from water cooler canisters on their heads to maxi pads stuck across their mouth and nose. (Thank you, wings, for the added protection.)
Is this our new normal? We're wearing bedazzled bandanas and coffee filters over our mouths, underwear wrapped around our heads, and even full-body regalia when we leave our houses. I've seen pictures of people walking down the street in plastic bubbles and wearing inflatable dinosaur and unicorn costumes in the grocery store.
Only a few weeks ago, you'd be deemed slightly odd for outfitting yourself in a superhero costume to go fetch milk. Now, you're considered odd if you don't!
Really, though, did you ever think you would be wearing a Stormtrooper mask while on a critical mission for toilet paper, hand sanitizer and chicken? Seriously, we look ridiculous walking around resembling our favorite animals and superheroes. Not only has my entire family had some great laughs at these pictures, but they also change the perspective from scary to silly. We're all just people behind these masks—smiling at each other, of course.
We have a choice to make: Feel the fear or find the humor.
Humor comforts and relaxes.
When times are uncertain and out of our control, laughter can comfort us. When the news is reporting constant catastrophe and our conversations revolve around sickness and death, the atmosphere at home can quickly turn anxious. We need to take precautions seriously, but we shouldn't remain stuck in a state of perpetual doom for months on end.
Freaking out about the shortage of hand sanitizer? Relax; all you need is tequila. I made my own and it's the best damn margarita I ever had! Warning: Making hand sanitizer may turn into starting bonfires from empty wine boxes or hee-hawing to the neighbor's donkey after a few too many Moscow Mules, so sanitize responsibly.
Humor reduces stress.
Just as we use exercise or meditation to de-stress, we can use laughter as a tool to shift our focus. You're less likely to feel anxious, overwhelmed and stressed while you're clutching your stomach laughing.
My husband and sons are notorious for reciting movie lines. Replace dire situations with a hilarious movie quote! Truly, I say this from experience. Entire conversations using quotes from Step Brothers or Talladega Nights take place in my house on a daily basis. At minimum, I get a chuckle out of witnessing them cracking up at themselves. When someone is stressed, try consoling by reciting something funny they can relate with.
Bust out some April Fools' Day pranks. No, it's no longer April 1—but really, who knows what day or month it is anymore? Stick googly eyes on the apples and oranges in the fruit bowl or on everything in the fridge, with a note saying, "I'm watching you." Because if your house is anything like mine, I go to bed with three tubs of ice cream in the freezer and by the next morning, they've mysteriously vanished.
Put bubble wrap under the bathroom rug. Wrap a rubber band around the kitchen sink water sprayer. Cut sponges into squares, slather with thick frosting and a few sprinkles, and serve your family "cake." Pinterest is full of simple and easy ideas for kids and adults. Just browsing them has me laughing. When your children see your good humor, they relax and feel reassured they are safe.
If pranks aren't your thing? Tickle. It's nearly impossible to tickle a child without making them laugh, which, in turn, causes parents to laugh. This simple exchange creates a bond while inducing a sense of security. Children usually laugh far more times each day than adults, but even the happiest kids can struggle in times of uncertainty and isolation. It's beneficial for everyone, especially parents and children, to hear each other laugh. It speaks an unspoken message that everything is going to be okay.
Humor cultivates optimism.
Pessimism: Most of us haven't been under the magical hands of a beautician in months. Personally, I haven't had my hair highlighted or cut in 12 weeks. I have dark roots and split ends. Optimism: I finally look like the members of the '80s hair bands I drooled over in middle school. Pessimism: So much for all the fashionable spring clothes, shoes and accessories collecting a layer of dust in our closets. Optimism: When all this is over—and we can leave our houses—we'll be required to ditch the yoga pants, maybe wear a bra, shower before noon, and dress according to what day of the week it is.
Humor connects people and encourages communication.
We all miss socializing, traveling, dining out, visiting elderly or extended family members, and, for many, the camaraderie with coworkers. Kids miss their friends, activities, teacher, and schedules. Humor plays a tremendous role in enhancing our relationships.
Give the gift of laughter! My friend's dad is always sending her hilarious emails and she forwards them on to me. I laugh and then I share with my friends and family. This often ensues either a text or phone call—hence human connection and communication.
Watch stand-up comedy and funny movies. Make your own music video. YouTube is exploding with comical content. We've been laughing hysterically over families recreating movie scenes, reality TV and old rock videos. What a fun way for families to connect!
Laughter doesn't always come from telling jokes and playing pranks; rather, spending quality time with friends and family. Whether we gather around a campfire, over dinner, or on a boat, conversations ignite hilarity over the simplest happenings. So while there are restrictions in place to gathering in groups, there are no restrictions when planning your Zoom party. Happy hour, anyone?
Laughter increases life satisfaction.
Consider the benefits of laughter to alter family dynamics. When sh*t hits the fan—and it does, even in the best of families—stepping back and seeking humor in the situation lightens the mood, refocuses the lens on the big picture, and may pave the road to forgiveness. Humor is a powerful way to reconcile after an argument, heal resentment and unite people during challenging times.
We had an afternoon of bickering in our house and the mood was less than stellar, until my oldest suggested we buzz his hair off. This turned into an hourlong family event that had us wiping away tears of laughter. We started out chopping random chunks of his hair with scissors and—as always, resorting back to movie scenes—discovered he resembled Jim Carey, better known as Lloyd, in Dumb and Dumber. We paused and pulled up a picture of Lloyd for a side-by-side photo op. These snapshots will be some of my favorites, even decades down the road. More so, a reminder of the fun times we had together during quarantine; coping with fear, frustration, stress, and anxiety through humor.
Humor is contagious.
When a group of people at a neighboring table breaks out in a roar of laughter, it's an automatic response to smile even when you have no idea what they find funny. Of course, it also stimulates justifiable eavesdropping. Many of us grew up watching corny sitcoms with laugh tracks in the background. Hearing others laugh encourages our own laughter. We often go seek the source of cackling and spontaneously join in without a thought.
Humor boosts the immune system.
Humor has the ability to heal and renew. Every time we laugh, we release stress hormones and increase infection-fighting antibodies. Laughter can diminish pain, boost our mood, lessen our burdens, and free us from overthinking things we cannot control—all of which support our physical and mental health.
When we laugh, we release endorphins that promote an overall sense of well-being. The distraction and immunity boost are as beneficial to the recipient as to the provider. So lighten up, laugh and live a longer, more satisfying life with healthier relationships.
Jamie Berris resides in Rockford, Michigan, with her husband and four children and is the author of two women's fiction novels. When not writing or reading, she enjoys running, traveling, camping, boating, and beaching it on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Find Jamie here.