Healthy Immune System – Part IV – Laughter!

The person who has a sense of humor is not just more relaxed in the face of a potentially stressful situation, but is more flexible in their approach .   

 John Morreall

For better than month now, we haven’t but a blink a way from the next conversation, article, social media post, breaking news televised report – you name it  – about the coronavirus.

It’s all been very stressful, for sure, and while I haven’t been personally affected nearly as much as some of my colleagues and acquaintances. I’ve adapted well to the slower -paced life and have been spared from anything close to the worst of it, and I am grateful for that. My heart goes out to anyone who has been infected, or related to anyone infected, and most especially to the people who have died because of the ravage of the disease, and all those first responders who have so tirelessly tried to make awful situations better.

Early on in this surreal adventure, while I was writing about different ways to strengthen the immune system in order to avoid or withstand an encounter with the disease, I noticed one day how important it is to laugh.

With all the horror and profundity and upset of this pandemic, the accompanying stress was with me a lot, especially in the beginning, when there was so much rapid change of lifestyle, confusion, and global panic.  AS a health enthusiast and promoter,  I could be relatively confident that I could weather the storm and perhaps even be better off for having experienced it. Still, there were things to worry about.

Stress, or our reaction to it, is a basic cause of more than 60% of all human illness and disease.

Stress, among other things like lack of exercise, poor dietary choices, genetics, and exposure to toxins like second hand smoke, prescription drugs, and metals, contributes to inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a main contributor to many chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, many cancers, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

In this series on strengthening the immune system, we’ve discussed many of things that contribute to a strong and healthy immune system, particularly diet and exercise. We also mentioned dealing with stress with things like mindfulness practice – reflection, meditation, prayer, etc., all of which help to calm the mind and thereby reduce inflammation.

Another key contributor to reducing inflammation in the body is laughter!

We are actually drawn to laughter in much the same way we are to sugar, and of the two, laughter is the far better choice.  There is no harm in laughter, it makes us feel good, has a positive affect on stress hormones, the immune system, the disease process, and actually has therapeutic properties. One study at Johns Hopkins shows that laughter when teaching improves memory, learning, and even test scores. When the brain processes a good joke, gets a good joke it goes right to work to create optimal mental and emotional well-being.

It has been well documented that concentration camp prisoners during the Holocaust in WW leaned on laughter to get through the misery of their days, as it gave them the will to survive.  We can manage our Covid inconveniences . It’s all relative.

Here are some benefits to a good laugh, Rinse and repeat during stressful times.

  • Relaxes the tensed nervous system which is controlling heart rhythm, blood pressure, breathing, and mental tension.
  • Shifts perspective, allowing us to see situations in less threatening, even absurd ways.
  • Relaxes the whole body
  • Rejuvenates the body by lowering cortisol levels, adrenalin and producing natural pain blockers and human growth hormone.
  • Helps boost the immune system
  • Dissolves negative emotions
  • Gathers people together, and shares the good feelings.

It’s important to note hear that some laughter is not so healthy. When there is sarcasm, meanness, superiority, it’s not so funny. Racism, or any “ism” is cruel . Ridicule and unkind intent is  inappropriate and wrong, especially when it involves another person’s pain or struggle.

I am basically a serious-thinking sort of person. I am not easily given to frivolity and silliness.

Early in the days of the “stay at home” suggestions, when I was mindlessly combing through social media posts, I occasionally found myself  uncharacteristically bursting into laughter over some silly thing that hit my funny bone just right. I noticed how those bursts relaxed me, in a way. They were refreshing and somehow unburdening. My body got less stiff, I frowned less – just relaxed.  I was very grateful for those interludes, and started passing some of the harmless fun along. Life got easier

Not everyone has the same sense of humor, nor do they need to. Still, the instinct to bring a little levity into trying times, can help us all to keep things in a more balanced perspective. Probably I’m not the only one that needs that.

As we begin to gradually move ourselves into a “new normal,” let us remember the value of a “light touch.” Properly and kindly delivered, it can be a part of the healing of this pandemic, rather than hurting us further, and a guide into a healthier, more joyful future and a healthy immune system.

If you missed other blogs in this series. Here they are.

Healthy Immune System

Part I   An Overview  

Part II   A Dozen Strengthening Foods

Part III  Covid – Loss – Stress 

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