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Is it okay to laugh during a pandemic?

Is it okay to laugh during a pandemic?

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In a time when we are all in varying degrees of fear, uncertainty, and pain, with tough economic news and many mourning the illness or loss of loved ones, we may wonder if laughing is appropriate.

At my aunt’s funeral a few months ago, I alternated between weeping and laughing. I was as close to her as my own mother.  My sister asked, “How can you laugh at a time like this?”  My aunt was one of the funniest women I have ever met. When I would think of something she said or one of her crazy antics, I would begin laughing. These funny memories and laughter helped me navigate my way through emotional grief.

But is there even more reason we should laugh during a crisis and even loss? Yes! Scientists confirm that there are both physical and mental health benefits.

Did you know that laughter can help clear the respiratory system? And that laughter can actuate the immune system? Laughing is known to increase the concentration of salivary immunoglobulin A, which helps fight infectious organisms that enter through the respiratory system, and increases the production of natural virus-killing cells.

An ancient proverb says, “A merry heart does good, like medicine”. This addresses our mental, emotional and spiritual disposition. According to science, however, a ‘merry heart’ is also good for our cardiovascular system.

But wait! There’s more! (Did you laugh?) Did you know that laughing can be as good as a workout? Researchers estimate that laughing 100 times is equal to 10 minutes on the rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike.  Maybe I can laugh off my “stress snacking” calories!

There will not always be laughter during these incredibly tumultuous times. And that is okay too. There are also health benefits to crying, for both the body and the mind. Emotional tears contain stress hormones and toxins that are released when we cry. Other biology-based benefits to crying include:

  • Stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to sooth worries and anxiety
  • Balancing homeostatic processes including breathing, that regulate mood and emotions
  • Reducing pain by increasing oxytocin (OT) levels

Tears and laughter are normal and healthy responses to what we are all going through. Tears are also a signal that lets people know when we need comfort or help. Laughter signals hope for a better day. The iconic Charlie Chaplin probably said it best: “Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.”

As we journey together, let us dry each other’s tears and laugh, when we can, in the face of this pandemic monster. We will get through this together!

 

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