Why Laughter Is the Best Medicine in the “New Normal”

“Laugh, my friend, for laughter ignites a fire within the pit of your belly and awakens your being.” 

—Stella McCartney

Life feels really f*#king serious right now. 

We look at daily charts of COVID cases and cry into our coffee cups. We get updates from our kids’ schools about online learning. We look at our long to-do lists and struggle to keep up with the demands of our work. Some of us may be caring for a sick loved one or grieving the loss of someone who has passed away in the recent months of the pandemic. 

Our hearts feel heavy with all of this. We wonder when it will end. And maybe that’s what feels heaviest, the weight of our uncertain future. When will life return to “normal?” Is it even possible for that to happen, or is this “new normal” our future?

No doubt many of us feel sucked into depression and anxiety, both incredibly normal human responses given the unprecedented circumstances in which we’re living. This is a period of global vulnerability, and it will take global hope, optimism, and support to get through this together –– and to finish with more strength and resilience than we had before the pandemic.

Let’s focus today on one strategy –– a fun and joyful one –– to help us continue building resilience in this dark time. That strategy is laughter.

Laughter is the best medicine in a time of uncertainty

“Wait, what?” you might be saying. “Why would I waste time on laughter when there are so many things making me feel sad, angry, and scared?” Yes, true. The seriousness of our situation can’t be minimized or diminished. But there’s also nothing about this situation that we can change. What we can control is our perspective and methods of coping with the challenge.

Let’s look at what the research tells us about how our brains function, and the importance of laughter in tempering negative emotion.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter has both short-term and long-term positive effects on the human body. Short-term effects include the release of endorphins (which enhance mood), increase of oxygen in the body, decrease of heart rate and blood pressure, and stimulation of blood circulation. Long-term effects include improved immunity (who doesn’t need that right now?), alleviation of pain, and decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

These positive side effects sound pretty great, right? And what about any negative side effects? None, really –– except perhaps some sore ribs if you have a really good, long laugh.

Bringing laughter into the “new normal”

So what steps can you take to bring more laughter into your life? Here are five ideas to get you started. Challenge yourself to choose just one or two to try today, and see how these activities impact how your body and brain feel:

  1. Find a show that tickles your funny bone. We all have a different sense of humor. Your unique humor may draw you toward something light and cheesy or something a bit dark and creepy. No judgment here; just find what helps you have a literal LOL session.
  2. Save some funny YouTube videos to watch when you need them. What kinds of feel-good videos make you go all warm and fuzzy? YouTube is filled with funny animal videos: elephants climbing into water buckets, dogs jumping into leaf piles, or kittens wrestling on carpets. There are also amazing videos of laughing babies, hugging toddlers, and dancing grandmothers. Whichever type of video gives you a grin, be sure to bookmark a few to watch when you need a boost.
  3. Try Laughter Yoga. Yes, that’s a thing! There’s research behind it too: even starting with a fake laugh can have the same health benefits of a true, genuine belly laugh. Here’s a TedX talk to get you started, and there are plenty of YouTube videos online to keep you going. 
  4. Call or Zoom with that friend who makes you laugh. We all have that person in our lives (maybe even a few if you’re really lucky) who makes us crack up. Near or far, it doesn’t matter: connect with your personal pick-me-up to get those positive brain hormones juiced up.
  5. Play a fun game with family or friends. Our family favorites may include Anomia, Spot It, Spit, Cards Against Humanity (there’s a family friendly version available to download here), and Just Dance. Jackbox is also a super fun option to virtually connect with other families and friends. 

Bringing a dose of joy during this “new normal” is just one little thing we can do –– but if you’ve tried it, you already know it truly helps! What helps you have a good laugh session when the current state of the world brings you down? Comment below!

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