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Is Laughter Really the Best Medicine?

I have been working on a blog post about "recovery from work" and another about "how to be productive and get into the zone" (now that you are all ‘recovered from work’). These ideas seem a bit, not irrelevant, but less useful now in these strange and unprecedented times. Realistically, your productivity is hitting an all-time low these days and the added burdens of living, working, schooling children, and feeding members of the family all day long under one roof are detracting from your ability to feel refreshed and ready to do it all again tomorrow. I myself have tapped into Amazon Video’s library of on-demand workouts, so I’m probably getting a bit more exercise that I had been… you know, before… when I was paying an embarrassing amount of money for a really nice gym I hardly ever went to. To be honest, these short workouts aren’t really ‘recovery’ so much as mood re-booting sessions that save my 8-year-old daughter and no-longer-world-traveler husband from ending up on the unpleasant side of my pent-up tension. It’s a release valve but not a long-term solution.

Laughter is another great release valve. But is it really the best medicine? In a study published in Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine in 2010, Dr. Mora-Ripoll reviewed medical journals and health care publications in an attempt to answer this very question. In case you were wondering, he did “distinguish between humor and laughter to assess health-related outcomes elicited by laughter only”. The article concluded that there is, in fact, empirical evidence supporting laughter’s benefits related to physiological, psychological, social, and spiritual health as well as overall quality-of-life. It also notes that the “adverse effects [of laughter] are very limited, and laughter is practically lacking in contra-indications.” Even simulated laughter - that’s the kind that is self-induced with nothing fun or funny to inspire it - may be helpful. As Dr. Mora-Ripoll points out in another study, “While the human mind can make a distinction between simulated and spontaneous laughter, the human body cannot.” Lastly, laughter is largely a respiratory event (though I think you can get a good abdominal workout while laughing as well), so it has health benefits for the lungs specifically. Healthy lungs are a good thing any ol’ time, but maybe more important now than ever before.

So, what the world needs now… well… is actually real medicine in the form of a vaccine that will combat the first pandemic most of us has ever lived through or been inconvenienced by. But we all need some release valves as well. Obviously, we need to be laughing more. In fact, my daughter realized last week that we “forgot to celebrate April fool’s day this year.” She added “That’s one of my favorite holidays!” How could we? So, rather than lecture further on the benefits of laughter, I’ve compiled a brief list of things that have made me laugh lately. Even if you’ve seen many of these, they might make you laugh again.

1. A Conference Call in Real Life

2. A Scene from Cheers!

3. This family's rendition of ‘One Day More’ from "Les Mis"

And, of course, I’d be remiss if there was no toilet paper humor, so...

4. The Ballad of Dunny Roll

5. OMG just bought this on the black market!

Also, try some "Laughter Yoga" the next time you are on a Zoom meeting!

6. Laughter Yoga with John Cleese

7. 100 Laughter Yoga Exercises Video (try this virtually, of course)

Feel free to share others you’ve come across. And “If COVID doesn’t take you out… maybe I can? (HaHa! It’s a COVID pick up line. Ok, never mind, I’m married anyway).

Stay well and find something to laugh about.


Heather Cluley, Ph.D. is the Associate Director in the Graduate HRD program at Villanova University. Learn more about her here!

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