These past few months have tested us. They might have even brought some of us to tears. With all of the heaviness, it might seem like there’s no place for laughter and jokes. We’re here to tell you that now is actually an ideal time to tickle your funny bone.
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We’ve heard that saying soooo many times. But those belly laughs and knee slaps can help improve our lives in a number of ways.
“Humor is considered to be a very sophisticated psychological defense against tension and threat, and so, I think doses of humor are good for us,” says psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD.
“Humor is a way to activate good brain chemistry, and actually protect ourselves with better immune function – it is really good medicine,” Dr. Bea adds.
Admit it. That would be a great opening for a joke. We’ll have to workshop that one.
Anyway, here are a few more good reasons for why it’s OK to laugh during stressful times from three mental health professionals.
“The healthy version of humor is being able to laugh at ourselves and our situation. It lightens our burdens, gives a better perspective,” says behavioral health therapist Jane Ehrman, MEd.
Ehrman adds that a good laugh can help bring more oxygen to the body and brain as well as put you at ease.
“It can be an aerobic activity when you laugh really hard and long, and it’s a good stress reliever. It’s difficult to be uptight after a good laugh. Laughter and humor bring joy and fun to our lives. Gosh, we need it now more than ever!”
For more fulfillment, Ehrman suggests sticking with healthy sources of humor.
“Unhealthy humor is sarcasm, put-downs, gallows humor and laughing at the expense of others. This type of humor is not life-giving; it can damage relationships and create negative, heavy energy.”
As mentioned earlier, humor can affect our immunity in positive ways. Psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD explains how.
“Laughter helps to boost the immune system, which makes you more resistant to disease. Also, it decreases stress hormones, which are taxing on your immune system. On the other hand, laughter increases the antibody-producing cells and T cells in our bodies. These cells are like a defense army against illness.”
When we have pent up emotions, we might reach for that can of whipped cream or our favorite cheesy snack. Dr. Albers says that embracing humor is much better because it feeds the brain.
“One of the best reasons to laugh right now is that it helps prevent emotional eating. When we laugh, it triggers the release of feel-good neurotransmitters. Even a subtle smile can trick your brain into thinking you are happy — thus reducing the need to munch to soothe your nerves or anxiety.”
“I actually like to laugh when I am feeling stressed because I know how it benefits the body both physically and emotionally,” says clinical health psychologist Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABPP.
“From an emotional perspective, laughing relieves tension, stress and depression. From a tension perspective, when you laugh, your muscles remain relaxed for several minutes afterward. This is very similar to the physiology behind progressive muscle relaxation,” says Dr. Sullivan.
Dr. Sullivan adds that laughter can stimulate the heart, increase endorphins, improve our ability to fight infection and help reduce pain.
“There really is some truth and science behind the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine,” says Dr. Sullivan.
Are you looking to fold more giggles into your daily routine? Here are a few ideas:
Whatever you do, don’t overthink it. Sometimes, the simplest things can keep you giggling all day long.