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  • Writer's pictureEmma Coyle

A Laugh a Day Keeps the Doctor Away?

They say 'Laughter is the best medicine.'

It is true that laughing increases endorphins (those 'feel good' chemicals in your body); lowers blood pressure and helps your body release opiates (reducing pain). But the positive effects of laughing don't stop there.

Humour can give us much needed relief in times of crisis or distress, times like now. It gives us a way of coping when all else seems futile by pointing out the more ridiculous sides of life, the quirks of human nature and the chinks in our armour. It distracts us from dwelling on the deep unhappiness we may be feeling and instead promotes resilience and bravery.

Indeed research shows that laughter helps reduce symptoms of depression and improve self-esteem and memory for people with dementia. The American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care, revealed that humour was present in 85% of 132 observed nurse based visits - 70% initiated by the patient.

Sometimes we might 'miss the mark' and not read either the audience or the situation right but usually laughter comes in that space between saying the right thing, and saying (just the right amount of) the wrong thing. A level of being inappropriate sometimes makes it even funnier. And the great thing about laughter? It's contagious! It's almost impossible not to be caught up in the moment when everyone around you has descended into fits of giggles.

Believe it or not, there can even be a place for humour in the therapy room... At the heart of counselling is a relationship, a relationship between counsellor and client and like with any relationship, there are times for tears and sadness but there is also a place for laughs and humour, when the moment feels right.

Laughing with (rather than laughing at!) someone is one of the most powerful human connections that we can experience, a shared 'feel good' moment. Research shows that people who laugh together are more likely to open up with one another; couples who laugh with each other are more likely to stay together.

Is it any wonder that we would actively seek out laughter in our darkest moments? Is it any wonder that we would seek it out now at this time, when we are collectively mourning the loss of our everyday lives and dealing with so much uncertainty and fear?

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