Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” Lord Byron (1788-1824)
Reader’s Digest filled the shelves in our childhood home, such loyal subscribers were our parents. When a new issue arrived in the mail, we turned to its humour: the jokes, one-liners and riddles.
- A woman accompanied her husband on his annual checkup. While the patient was getting dressed, the doctor came into the waiting room and said to the wife, “I don’t like the way he looks.” “Neither do I,” she replied, “but he’s handy around the house.”
- I decided to sell my vacuum cleaner as all it does is gather dust.
- I weigh nothing, but you can still see me. If you put me in a bucket, I make the bucket lighter. What am I?*
Do any of the samples make you laugh? Humour can be tricky, since what’s funny to one person may leave another unmoved. For instance, I will guffaw at comedic scenes in “Stranger” and “Imposters”, while my TV viewing partner sits stony-faced. Conversely, Glen will laugh aloud at the silliness of “Airplane!” or the slapstick of National Lampoon’s “A Christmas Vacation” during countless viewings, while one meets my laughter quota.
Today, on World Laughter Day, we’re meant to recognize the value of laughter. Because it improves our physical and mental health. Humour won’t take away our underlying problems — or COVID — but it can serve as a distraction and a coping skill. As well as our mind, our body reacts to laughter, releasing endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Laughter affects our dopamine and serotonin levels, neurotransmitters that play a role in happiness and pleasure. It also reduces stress by lowering our levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and epinephrine (aka adrenaline). For these physiological reasons, some members in the medical community now include laughter therapy among traditional treatments.
Laughter yoga came on the scene in 1995 when Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, created it to lessen symptoms of depression and feelings of loneliness. It combines deep breathing, gentle stretching, simulated laughter exercises and playful games and activities. His program is so popular there are now over 5,000 laughter clubs in more than 50 countries.
To bring more laughter into our lives, try the following triggers:
– Watch funny movies and TV shows. There’s a reason Schitt’s Creek won best comedy series at this year’s Golden Globes and cleaned up at the Emmy Awards; even my American friends love this Canadian sitcom.
– Read funny books, magazines, comics and cartoons. (I’m embarrassed to admit some cartoons in The New Yorker perplex rather than amuse me.) Growing up, my siblings and I used to quarrel over the first right to flip through issues of Mad magazine.
– Spend time with cheerful, upbeat people. Or those who make us chuckle, as Brandon does me with his wit. Of Ontario’s slogan during the pandemic, he quips: “Not Yours To Discover.”
– Perhaps most important, lighten up; don’t take ourselves too seriously. When I laugh after flubbing a shot on the tennis court, my opponents and partner may join in. They’re laughing with — not at — me (I think!).
Although social laughter is great, we can also train ourselves to laugh out loud when we’re alone. And research shows self-induced laughter can be as effective for health and wellness as the spontaneous kind. One health practitioner prescribes a ‘laughie’, like a selfie except we record ourselves laughing and then watch the video to cue us to laugh whenever we want.
One minute of laughter in a day is better than none! •
P.S. * In case you’re wondering, the answer to the riddle is a hole.
P.P.S. Please add your triggers or sample humour in the comments below to stimulate today’s laugh.