Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Laughter as Medicine

Ask the Life Coach

Dear Coach,

Even though restrictions are easing up a bit, I’m still staying home because I’m high risk for COVID-19 due to underlying health issues. I’m in need of a cost-free pick-me-up. Any ideas?

Melancholy in Marco


Dear Melancholy,

I understand. Many of us are getting to the “enough is enough” stage of staying safe-at-home, me included. One absolutely free and available prescription I can recommend is a good laugh. Don’t laugh (no, DO laugh), I have the science to back me.

Laughter is so important to our physical and mental well-being that gelotologists (practitioners of gelotology, the study of laughter and its effects on the body) literally prescribe laughter as medicine. Dr. William Fry, MD, a gelotology pioneer and a Stanford University professor emeritus, experimented on himself as early as the 1960s. He drew blood samples while watching Laurel and Hardy movies and noted that laughter lowered blood pressure and enhanced immune system function. 

A good laugh can also calm your stress response, boost your mood, and promote a greater sense of well-being. 

Here are a few things you can do to promote more laughter:

  • Watch a funny movie, tv-show, or YouTube video. Listen to a funny podcast or read a funny book. David Sedaris’ “Calypso” totally cracked me up. If you can, get it in audiobook format. YouTube video “My Waffle Wife” also made me laugh.
  • Collect jokes and share them with others at a distance, on FaceTime or via social media. I rarely “get” jokes so I can’t help you here. 
  • Smile more. Even a forced smile or laugh has benefits and can morph into the real thing.
  • Play videogames, board games, word games, anything you can do with another person (virtually or with your housemate) to generate some laughter. My husband and I play Rummikub. I try to stifle a big smile when I win.
  • Call up a friend or relative who makes you laugh. When I get down, I call my friend, Donna. She always makes me laugh. Sometimes just receiving a text from her will put a smile on my face. 

Laugh! It’s good for you!

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