Is humour the best medicine
Laughter and humour. Is it the best medicine?
I was recently laughing my socks off at a DVD of Lee Evans, the comedian, although it was rather stifled as my wife was in bed. But, it made me feel good, it lifted my spirits and for some time I wore a wide smile. Even the next day, I was still smiling, although it was more internal, it still made me feel a warmth inside.
I have seen this particular comic in concert a few times and it made me think about how the humour and our perception of the humour changes from when we are actually at the concert, to when we see it on DVD. To illustrate this, I once saw a rather crass and rude comic, who will go unnamed, in concert. I remember being extremely amused buy his rantings and blue humour. My friends and I were falling about in the isles and after the concert we went for a drink and discussed it in detail. We were all still in high spirits, however we found it really difficult to remember the jokes! We tried our best but found ourselves saying things like “oh, what was that one he said about getting drunk… Err, it was funny… Oh, what was it!”.
When we saw that the comic had released this concert as a DVD we decided to rent it and reminisce. Well, there were three of us watching, but the mood was different, and opposite to our expectations, we found it difficult to raise a laugh. In fact, I remember laughing out of embarrassment just to break the silence.
So what was different? Why do we find certain things amusing in one situation and not another. Is it simply down to the laughter of the crowd being infectious, so it spreads like a Mexican wave, infiltrating our minds and triggering a response. Well, for me, this is exactly what it is.
when we stopped watching the DVD, we went out to the pub and we laughed at other things, each other, and the world around us.
So, how important is laughing and humour to our mental health, what chemicals does laughing release or reduce? Well, when we are in high spirits it reduces cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline) and therefore reduces our stress levels and levels of anxiety. We use a lot of muscles when we laugh so we are almost giving our bodies a sort of mini workout, and that can only be a good thing (unless you actually do split your sides!!). Laughing can also cause a welcome distraction to our everyday woes or problems, in essence, laughter can be our own therapist.
Laughter and humour can also be a defense mechanism in individuals. A sort of distraction to aim focus elsewhere other than the actual subject that causes the person discomfort.
With this all said, I am painfully reminded that some people who suffer from depression, laughter is something they would love to rekindle but try as they might, they cannot find the laughter within. I remember someone lending me a raft of VHS cassettes of comedies and stand up shows when I suffered form depression in the early 1990’s. I merely sat through them stoney faced. Totally unable to raise a smile, even though I would have laughed had I been in the right frame of mind. But I wasn’t. This just caused more frustration. And is indicative of the way frustration can drag us down.
Thankfully, that period of my life was short lived and now humour and laughter is extremely important in my daily life. But we must spare a thought to those individuals who are afflicted with depression who find it almost impossible to carry a smile.