“Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain”
There’s so much uncertainty in the world at present, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by fear and anxiety. There are, however, an abundance of positive things to do to get through these difficult times, b’siyatta d’Shmaya, and laughter is high on the list.
A good sense of humor can’t stop the spread of COVID-19; however, the Mayo Clinic reports that data is mounting regarding the positive effects of laughter, and a good hearty laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body.
The Mayo Clinic explains that laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
Laughter is good for you. According to HelpGuide, a good hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for 45 minutes after.
Laughter activates and relieves your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can release and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result is a good, relaxed feeling. Additionally, laughter can stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up, though. It’s also good for you over the long term. Laughter boosts the immune system. It decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thereby improving your resistance to disease. Negative thoughts manifest themselves into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses.
Moreover, laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may actually make you feel happier.
Laughter is strong medicine. It triggers healthy physical and emotional changes in the body and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor brightens your burden, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert. It also helps you forgive sooner.
With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.
As children, laughter was a frequent part of our daily routine — something we often did hundreds of times while awake. In the ensuing years, however, as we grew into adulthood, life became more serious and laughter more infrequent. But by seeking out more opportunities for humor and laughter, you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, find greater happiness, help cope amid the uncertainty of the corona crisis, and, with Hashem’s help, even add years to your life.
A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling life-threatening diseases.
Laughter helps you stay mentally healthy. Having a good laugh makes you feel good, infusing you with a positive feeling that remains with you even after the laughter subsides. Humor helps you maintain a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.
More than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even now, in these turbulent times, a laugh — or even simply a smile — can accomplish a great deal in helping you feel better. There’s a good reason why TV sitcoms use laugh tracks. Laughter truly is contagious. The mere sound of it primes your brain and readies you to smile. And the more laughter you bring into your life, the happier you will feel.
Laughter is a natural part of life that is inborn. Infants begin smiling during the first weeks of life and laugh out loud within months of being born. But how can one find the strength to smile with the insidious spread of a pandemic wreaking havoc worldwide, as the numbers of newly diagnosed cases continue to soar from dawn to dusk?
Above all else, we must beseech Hashem, from the depths of our hearts, to remove this gezeirah and send a complete refuah shelaimah to all those who are suffering and to protect Klal Yisrael and the world from the coronavirus.
As we grapple with the challenges of social distancing from family and friends and preparing for a Pesach quite unlike any we have experienced in our lifetime, it’s key to maintain our physical and emotional health through laughter. As uncertain as circumstances may be, we can find the joy in our lives by counting our blessings. The simple act of considering the positive aspects of our lives will distance us from negative thoughts that block humor and laughter.
Create opportunities to laugh. FaceTime or Zoom family and friends and share good jokes, humorous stories and experiences, and virtual “laughter yoga” classes.
For a positively uplifting experience that will surely induce uncontrollable laughter, we highly recommend viewing Ashley Blaker’s first Off-Broadway show, “Strictly Unorthodox.” Previously available only by purchase, the acclaimed comedy performer/writer/producer has made it available for people to watch on YouTube.
Rochelle Maruch Miller is a contributing editor for the Five Towns Jewish Times. She is a journalist, creative media consultant, lecturer, and educator, and writes for magazines, newspapers, websites, and private clients. She welcomes your comments at Rochellemiller04@aol.com.