Like a pair of underwear creeping up your backside or pants becoming increasingly tighter as the day wears on, adjustments required by COVID-19 and the associated pandemic are mostly manageable, but still uncomfortable. You try distracting yourself by focusing on work, being grateful for what you have, emphasizing the positive in your life, and constructing a new routine . . . but it is still a struggle. As the pandemic wears on, with its associated social and behavioral changes, it can all feel like very serious business. This is why it is more important than ever to include laughter in your family’s health and wellness routine.
Not sure you believe it?
Here’s what scientists from Mayo Clinic tell us about the benefits of laughter.
- Stress relief that increases then decreases your heart rate and blood pressure, yielding a relaxed feeling.
- Heart, lung and muscle stimulation as you take in more oxygen-rich air.
- Increase in endorphins, the feel good neurotransmitters in your brain.
- Relief of muscle tension.
- Improvement in your body’s ability to fight off illness, i.e. your immune system.
- Pain relief through production of natural pain killers in your body.
- An increase in your ability to cope with difficult situations.
- Enhancement of your feeling of connection with others.
- A decrease anxiety and depression.
There’s Nothing Funny to Laugh About
Alright, you say, bring on the laughter. The problem is there isn’t much funny about this situation. Have you listened to the 24/7 news-cycle? Could there be anything more dreary and dismal than the daily death count and growing rate of infection? When times are tough, how do you find a way to laugh more instead of less? Here are some ideas that might help:
Upping Your Laughter Potential
- Keep silly in sight. We laugh more when we remind ourselves to laugh. Keep funny things in sight—silly pictures or photos, greeting cards and comics. Keep family-friendly comedy on hand in the form of DVDs, podcasts and Netflix options.
- Make yourself laugh. Laughter is contagious. If you don’t believe it, watch a YouTube video of a baby laughing and see if it doesn’t make you laugh as well. Or, check out the sitcom with Mary Tyler Moore at the funeral of Chuckles the Clown. We’ve all been there. It’s not a fitting time to laugh, but you’ve got the giggles and you can’t help yourself. In fact, laughter is so contagious that even when you just pretend to laugh long enough, you will start laughing—you and others around you.
- Whoop it up with others. Shared laughter is better laughter. When you giggle, snicker, snort, and cackle with friends and family you’re likely to laugh longer and stronger than when you do it alone. To enhance your shared laughter experience, try the “High, Low, Ha Ha” at dinner around the table at night. This involves each member of the family sharing his “high,” “low” and “ha ha” (i.e. funniest) moment of the day.
- Brush up on your dad jokes. Some people can tell a joke. Others can’t, but even when a person can’t, it’s still amusing to see them try. Better yet, record the moment on your phone and post it for others to see. You may have a budding comedian in the family.
- Recognize what’s funny and what’s not. Make it a habit to avoid laughing at the expense of others and teach your children to do the same. Talk to your family members about what makes something funny and what kinds of things should be avoided.
At Good Dads, we care about you and your family. That’s why we focus on helping you be the best dad you can be, regularly and successfully engaged with your child or children.
Learn more about why this pandemic is so hard on families and get great ideas on how you can make the most of it by signing up for our FREE course, Don’t Waste the Weird: Why Laughter is the Best Medicine.
Dr. Jennifer Baker, Founder & Executive Director of Good Dads, is a clinical psychologist and family therapist with nearly 30 years of practice helping individuals, couples and families. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at email@example.com.