Hands up: who thought 2020 would be a great year? Really, those two “0”s are just begging to be doodled in as happy faces, aren’t they?
We are 20 years out from the turn of this century and the new millennium. All those wonderful millennial babies are becoming adults, bringing their fresh talents to the world. Loved ones have planned reunions, weddings, graduations, anniversaries, travel… What could go wrong?
Twenty-twenty is a firm reminder that life isn’t fair, and seldom turns out the way we expect. If you have chosen to laugh your way through this abnormal, challenging situation, I applaud you! Given the fact that laughter is contagious (and you don’t have to be in proximity to spread it), I encourage you to start your own laughter epidemic! This article features facts about funny, and a number of quotes to get you thinking. Seriously, I hope you will share these ideas to help the spread of laughter in your community!
“As soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul.” Jewish Proverb
Whatever you had planned this year, you probably didn’t predict your need for impeccable hand hygiene, mask-crafts, and graph-reading skills! I had no idea I could live in the same clothes for three months, without the aid of personal grooming of any kind. Who knew that our government would classify the liquor and cannabis stores as ‘essential services’? (We finally agree on something!). Now that you know how to wash your hands with vigor and purpose, why not wash your soul with laughter? A number of research studies show strong evidence that laughter dilates blood vessels. This effect (after watching a 30 minute humorous video), persisted for nearly 24 hours! Mediated by the release of endorphins, our minds and arteries relax with laughter. What could be simpler or better? Therefore, when choosing your binge-watching topics, seek out the ones that make you laugh, give you hope, and focus on the positive.
“Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” Mark Twain
What makes you laugh? Often, laughter is generated with a swerve. You expect a story to go one way, then it takes a sudden turn to the unexpected or ridiculous. Isn’t that a perfect description for 2020? Are we fooling ourselves by laughing at this “unusual” year, or does laughter really help?
Laughter and a sense of humour can be bountifully beneficial when coping with tragic, or unfortunate circumstances. This does not mean cruel laughter at someone’s hardship, or making fun of sad situations. It is possible to take loss and hardship very seriously, yet find lighthearted moments to celebrate life. At my father’s funeral this year, we shared hugs and tears (he passed pre-pandemic). We also enjoyed laughter about favourite memories, and Dad’s wonderful sense of humour. My father (a cowboy), would certainly endorse Will Rogers’ words, “If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you have to do is stop digging!”
My dragon boat team (www.BreastStrokes.org) exemplifies this philosophy, and offers wonderful support to our members. We joke about our own treatment experiences, and the joy of life after breast cancer. As a result, we refer to ourselves as a giggle of paddlers. In our case, it’s a team decision to see the lighter side of life. We’re dead serious about staying healthy as we support each other. We spread ‘an attitude of gratitude’, as we laugh at the absurdities of life, and chuckle our way through challenging practices.
“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” Voltaire
What can be more difficult than a global pandemic? Thousands of people have suffered tragic consequences, in a seemingly endless health crisis. A pandemic must be taken seriously, so we can find and follow the best pathway forward. However, as a herd (waiting for immunity to settle in), we can find humour in the absurdity of this hardship. Complete these sentences: “If 2020 was a song, the title would be ______” • “Instead of singing ‘happy birthday’ while I wash my hands, now, I _______” • “My favourite outfit for Zoom meetings is _________” • “I found a new use for my mask: ________” • Look at this picture of my self-inflicted Covid-haircut (insert photo).
“At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.” Jean Houston
People laugh more easily and more often in a group. It is thought to be a communication technique among primates that transcends age, language, and most cultural differences.
“Laughter serves as a blocking agent. Like a bulletproof vest, it may help protect you against the ravages of negative emotions that can assault you in disease.” Norman Cousins
Laughter, humour, and a positive attitude, open the gates to creativity. Norman Cousins (Anatomy of an Illness), wrote: “Utilize laughter to create a mood in which the other positive emotions can be put to work for yourself and those around you.”
“(S)He who laughs, lasts!” Mary Pettibone Poole
Whether it is genuine, or ‘fake’, laughter helps you feel better. There is now a groundswell of support regarding the therapeutic value of laughter in the treatment of disease. Evidence shows that surgeons used humor to distract patients from pain as early as the 13th century. Scientific study now supports the positive effects of humour on physical and mental wellness. Now, more than ever, we need humour for therapy and healing.
“If you can laugh in the face of adversity, you’re bullet-proof.” Ricky Gervais
Dr. Madan Kataria created Laughter Yoga, which now has over 7000 free laughter yoga clubs in more than 72 countries. Laughter yoga sessions (combining yoga breathing and simulated laughter), are available online (https://www.youtube.com/laughteryoga). Dr. Kataria found that laughter was therapeutic, even when it was ‘artificial’. In other words, you did not have to think something was funny to receive laughter’s benefits. Humour (think of stand-up comedy), often pushes the boundaries of good taste. A joke that one person finds funny, is insulting to another.
“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” Lord Byron
Dr. Kataria found that simply breathing deeply and ‘laughing for no reason’ was therapeutic, calming, and beneficial to health. I am a certified Laughter Yoga Leader. Having attended an international LY conference, I saw this technique worked well in prisons, factories, hospitals, and my own living room. Laughter for no reason is free. It helps people. I always connect patients in pain with Laughter Yoga. What have they got to lose?
“No matter what your heartache may be, laughing helps you forget it for a few seconds.” Red Skelton
Try it right now:
- Take in a deep slow breath…
- As you breathe out, laugh as hard as you can! If you need inspiration, ‘laugh like Santa’.
Compared with when you began the exercise, how do you feel now? My guess is you will feel somewhat breathless and more relaxed. Perhaps others nearby saw you laughing and joined in. Look for www.LaughterYoga.org chapters in your community. Lots of useful activities are available on line, for free.
“We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we are happy because we laugh.” William James
We walk our parrots (yes, I know…). One of them loves imitating laughter – and sometimes starts laughing on his own, for no reason. As we walk down the street, people hearing him start laughing. He laughs louder and more, imitating their laughter. You can see where I’m going with this. Soon, everyone within earshot of this spectacle is crying with laughter. What could be better? Are you laughing now?
Documented physical benefits of laughter include:
- Boosting the immune system
- Enhancing oxygen intake
- Stimulating the heart and lungs
- Relaxing muscles throughout the body
- Triggering the release of endorphins
- Easing digestion
- Relieving pain
- Balancing blood pressure
- Improving mental functions
I hope you have taken time to laugh while reading this article – if only during the Laughter Yoga exercise. Laughter is helpful and healthful. Please, pass it on!
“I have always felt that laughter in the face of reality is probably the finest sound there is and will last until the day when the game is called on account of darkness. In this world, a good time to laugh is any time you can.” Linda Ellerbee
- Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient, Norman Cousins, https://wwnorton.com/books/Anatomy-of-an-Illness/
- Humour Resources: The Humor Project Inc., https://www.humorproject.com/
- Laugh and be thankful—it’s good for the heart, Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health. Posted November 24, 2010, updated October 29, 2015. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/laugh-and-be-thankful-its-good-for-the-heart-20101124839
- Laughing through the pandemic, CBC Radio: The Current, May 2020. https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1730906691575
- Laughter Promotes Healthy Blood Vessels, Miller, MD, director of preventive cardiology, U of Maryland Medical Centre. Presentation to the American College of Cardiology, Orlando Florida, March 7, 2005
- Prescription Laughter: Healing Strategies for People with Breast Cancer, Connie Jasinskas, https://www.fortheloveoffit.com/prescription-laughter-book.html