Laughter during the COVID pandemic: It will make you feel better

YAIR LAPID (left) and Shai Piron share a good laugh at the Knesset (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
YAIR LAPID (left) and Shai Piron share a good laugh at the Knesset
(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
 Laughter during the pandemic: It will make you feel better
Mark Twain once said, “The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” 
Covid-19 joke: This is day 121 at home, and the dog is looking at me like, “See? This is why I chew the furniture!”
These days, there is so much to worry about: “When does this end? Will I get this virus and become very ill, and maybe die? Will the vaccine help? How will my kids get through this school year and learn something? Will dating ever be normal again? When will I see my grandkids? How am I going to survive economically and provide for my family?” 
The list goes on and on. 
As we go through this crisis, wave by wave, we are constantly challenged to find ways to cope with it and stay positive. I have previously written about the importance of exercise in coping with pandemic stress. In this article, I want to examine the use of humor and laughter to help us through these tough times. 
We all have our ways to find humor and laugh. Take R., a good friend of mine. On a frequent basis, he sends me jokes, funny pictures, or video clips that he finds in the cyber world. Granted, some of the material may be a bit silly, but many are quite funny and they do make me laugh. Most important, they make my friend laugh and I know that he enjoys sending around the best jokes to make others laugh as well. Comedians are often the perfect answer to our need to laugh. 
My wife and I have been fortunate enough to attend “Comedy for Koby,” a stand -up comedy evening with comedians that come from the States to make us Israelis laugh. I still have a smile on my face when I remember a few of the comedians that made me burst with laughter. For some people, like my cousin S., making others laugh just comes naturally. When I want to be assured of a good laugh, I give him a call and he has a way of telling a simple story and just making me laugh. 
How does the enjoyment of laughter benefit us? 
Scientific studies have shown that laughter helps you overcome the bad feelings that are associated with “worry” and does things biologically to improve both your physical and emotional health. 
Consider the following:
• Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes.
• Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
• 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.
• Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
• In fact, it has been proven that laughter and doing things that make us smile actually enhance our general well-being and promote health and resiliency during times of crisis.
MOST PEOPLE know that when they are told a funny joke, see a talented comedian or watch a funny sitcom, they laugh and feel good. All the more so, helping people laugh when they are facing difficult emotional times is a much-needed and powerful coping tool. Our immune system protects our bodies from toxins and viruses; humor strengthens both our physical and psychological immune systems, reduces stress hormones, aids in combating emotional distress and improves our attitudes. 
Taking this one step further, mental health practitioners recommend doing fun things in general – anything that you enjoy and can put a smile on your face. Today, many families are stuck at home. Nevertheless, try playing a family game like charades, watching a good Disney movie, or doing any activity that can create laughter in your home. And when this lockdown ends, remember to try each day to make yourself and those you love spend some time laughing.
As Groucho Marx once said, “From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.”  
The writer is a marital, child and adult cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist with offices in Jerusalem and Ra’anana and global online accessibility, [email protected] ; www.facebook.com/drmikegropper.