What's So Funny?
There are a lot of jokes floating around in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is it right to be laughing at a time like this?
I think the answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. It’s not okay to laugh at the pandemic and its carnage. More than three million people have been infected, more than 300 000 people have died, and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. The world is going through a tumultuous time, on a scale not seen since the Great Depression or World War II.
In the midst of it all, however, laughter and humour can help us deal with the stress of the situation and make us more resilient for the times ahead.
Laughter is Good for You
There’s a reason we like to laugh. It releases endorphins in the brain, which in turn help reduce our perceptions of pain and increase our general feelings of happiness and well-being. The physical changes that occur when we laugh, are also good for our health (e.g. greater intake of oxygen, better circulation, muscle relaxation). All of these can help us feel less stressed and more positive about life.
Laughter can also help us to have better interpersonal relationships, as we’re more likely to bond with others if we share pleasant experiences with them.
Positive types of humour are especially helpful. Researchers in Spain recently found that affiliative humour (that which amuses others and helps strengthen connections) and self-enhancing humour (a funny perspective on life) helped protect people against anxiety and depression. You can read more about their study here.
In the isolation we’ve experienced with the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s no wonder that people are looking for ways to lift their spirits and those of others.
So What Can You Do?
Brisbane Mum Lou Bromley found a novel way of cheering up herself and those around her. She and her young son Angus dressed up as dinosaurs and walked around their neighbourhood to brighten the day of children studying at home. She even paid a visit to maths and science classes at a local school. You can read more about her fun-filled exploits here.
Others, like Marguerite Barker, have joined the ‘bin outing’ craze. The idea is to dress up in your finery or a funny costume so that you can make the most of your big trip to the curb with your wheelie bin. Then post the photo on social media to inspire your friends. There’s even a Facebook group devoted purely to bin outings.
A British woman put signs on either side of her property to inform people they were entering an area under the jurisdiction of the Ministry for Silly Walks. Then she sat back to watch the fun. You can catch some of the silly walks here.
British comedians have also banded together for ‘The Big Night In’ – a series of short humorous videos that raise funds for charity. Here’s Miranda Hart’s contribution.
So don’t feel guilty about laughing at the latest toilet paper meme or Abba isolation-mash-up. Those laughs can help you and others through this crisis and bring you out smiling on the other side.
What have you laughed at recently? I’d love to hear your examples.
Sources and Further Reading
Delete that COVID-19 Joke or Forward It? by Ami Hileman
Social Laughter Releases Endorphins in the Brain by researchers at the University of Turku
Stress Relief From Laughter? It’s No Joke by Mayo Clinic staff
11 Scientific Benefits of Having a Laugh by Jordan Rosenfeld
Extra photo credits: Dog meme by author. Photos of Lou Bromley and Marguerite Barker used by permission.