I won’t beat around the bush — we are treading rough waters and it can be hard to keep your hopes up during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is mentally taxing to constantly live through stress and talk about the devastating current events.
But there’s no need to envelop yourself in hopelessness and despair; at times like this, you have to try your best to keep things light and light-hearted. They say laughter is the best medicine, and this saying is not unfounded. Laughter relieves stress and tension, and has many positive effects on your body.
The Science Behind Laughter
As much as laughter may seem like a mental and emotional experience, it induces physical changes in your body as well. Laughter releases many endorphins, also known as peptide hormones, in the brain. These specific endorphins released cause a euphoric-like feeling. In turn, we begin to feel more relaxed and at ease. Specifically, bursts of laughter release lots of serotonin, a natural antidepressant known as the “happy hormone.” How cool is that?!
Additionally, when you laugh you intake a lot of oxygen. This laughter stimulates and protects many of your internal organs like the lungs and heart (similar to the effect of an anti-inflammatory drug, but without the drugs). It also increases blood circulation and relaxes muscles, soothing any existing physical tensions.
In addition to the short-term effects, laughter has several long-term benefits as well. It can lift your overall mood, relieve pain, boost your immune system, and increase your personal satisfaction. Laughter makes it easier to cope with difficult situations, like the one the world is in now. And even if your intention is to simply feel better, laughter can help you build stronger connections with those who you are laughing with.
Practical Ways to Implement Happiness and Laughter
Sitcoms and Movies
Virtual Chats and Reunions
One of the easiest ways to lift your mood and turn that frown upside down is to simply listen to jokes and anecdotes. Comedy shows and stand-up specials are extremely accessible through platforms such as Youtube, Facebook, and Netflix, to name a few. All you have to do is figure out which comedians best match your sense of humor and there you have it; you can have a comedy marathon and laugh all of your worries away!
If stand-up isn’t your thing, sitcoms and comedy movies are another great way to uplift your mood. Might I suggest good old classic sitcoms like “Friends” or “Seinfeld”? You can even rewatch your childhood favorites; this will bring a sense of nostalgia, and help you ease your stress. Just as you can with comedy and stand-up, you can stream whatever movies you like on Netflix, Hulu, and other platforms. The hardest part may be choosing from the endless selections!
Call up your old friends and family and have a laugh. Reminisce about old memories and relive your happy moments together. Let yourself go and lower your barriers; allow your stress to flow out through your laughter and smiles. We can get so consumed in our own thoughts that it can be suffocating, especially now when our physical interactions are limited. But talking things through with others and joking around can work wonders. And sometimes, talking about nothing (serious) at all is all you really need. Don’t think too much and just let yourself be in the moment. Zoom, Facetime, Skype--you name it. We are so fortunate to be living in a time with so much technology; even when we are not physically together, we can still talk to people and be connected through smiles and laughter.
Laughter is not only a medicine for despair; it also helps us to resist our despairs and fears instead of reconciling ourselves to them. This is not to say that comedy forces us to deny misery; rather, it allows us to laugh at our problems rather than give in to them. The mockery and refusal to be upset at the problems we face is what emboldens us and allows us to better cope with them.
It’s hard to be happy, and that is understandable. But go ahead, give it a try, even if you have to force yourself. Turn that frown upside down and see how it feels and how your body responds. Let yourself go and laugh your worries away. We have to take care of ourselves in these very grueling moments. Spread the laughter and share the smiles!