Do something good for yourself – have a laugh

Oct 09 2020

Do something good for yourself – have a laugh

“Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine.”
Lord Byron

As we begin our second rotation with some students physically distancing on campus while others attend school from home, I have to share how heartwarming it is to see students laughing with one another. The other day, I watched a group of high school students enjoy a joke amongst themselves during lunch that had them literally doubled over. Their joy, even through masks, lit up the quad and I couldn’t help but smile; for a brief moment, life felt right and good. Similarly, I’ll sometimes peek into a class in distance learning and see moments of laughter among the students, and find yet another reason to smile.

Over the years, there’s been a fair amount of research on the healing power of laughter. TEDTalks, articles, and lectures have all testified to the ability of laughter to reorient our mindset and restore our body. A recent New York Times article called Laughter May Be Effective Medicine For These Trying Times discusses the medicinal properties of humor. According to the article, “Humor is not just a distraction from the grim reality of the crisis, said Dr. Michael Miller, a cardiologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. It’s a winning strategy to stay healthy in the face of it.” Miller goes on to point out the cardiovascular benefits of laughter as it releases nitric oxide which in turn, “relaxes blood vessels, reduces blood pressure and decreases clotting.

Dr. Miller prescribes a good, hard belly-laugh at least once a day. Don’t get me wrong-a nice chuckle provides some relief, but Miller and others recommend a strong, cathartic tear-inducing, face-hurting laugh.

A 2018 article in Mental Floss, 11 Scientific Benefits of Having a Laugh, ”also recommends laughter’s numerous health benefits in combating depression, bolstering one’s immunity, and reducing anxiety and blood pressure. The article states, “Another 2015 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that three 60-minute laughter therapy sessions improved the depression and negative mood states of cancer patients.”

As beneficial as laughter may be in normal times, it may be even more important during the anxiety-ridden period in which we are living. The Mental Floss article explains “From a general psychological perspective, author Bernard Saper suggests in a paper for Psychiatric Quarterly that the ability to maintain a sense of humor and the ability to laugh can act as positive coping mechanisms to help a person get through difficult times.” Similarly, as the “New York Times” article suggests, “Perhaps most relevant today, possessing a sense of humor also helps people remain resilient in the face of adverse circumstances, said George Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University.”

As parents, laughing with our children can be one of life’s greatest joys. In the act of sharing a humorous moment, we bond and tighten our connection with each other. I hope that as we continue to weather this pandemic, and its repercussions, you are able to find a moment each day to guffaw with your children and in the process, improve your health and your children’s well-being.

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