• Paloma Gaskin

Laughter is a Strong Medicine

Does the sound of someone laughing, especially a child or baby, make you smile or join in with a little laugh of your own (even if you don’t know what they’re laughing about)? Do you have memories of the effortless way in which you used to laugh as a child, or younger, and that you don’t often remember what amused you at the time? Maybe it’s more of a sense of happiness that you resonate with about childhood? There is something delightfully infectious about laughter or giggling for no apparent reason. It’s a moment, in which the most unfunny thing can set you off for a minute. Usually, it’s wonderfully shared laughter.

We all know about laughter triggering a release of endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Even in (and especially during) challenging times, our openness to joy and a sense of humour can be our saving grace. We’ve collectively been through the ringer, more than a few times, in the more than year-long pandemic. We made it! And we were changed, for better or worse. Someone I’d known for over ten years had become rather hardened from bad experiences with others in 2020, so that when I summarised my 2020 (so far) in one paragraph in an email, his response was: “If even half of what you went through is true, then most people would have given up.” It was meant to be a compliment (I think!), but the way he worded it made it sound as if he couldn’t believe me. He used to believe in the power of humour, but I was the one who was upbeat. I’m hoping this year has softened him again.

During some of the worst times in my past, my ex-husband could make me laugh about the silliest things. It was child-like humour, that literally had no meaning, based on our deep connexion. He’s still one of the only people in the world who can make me laugh easily, and specifically when I’m not able to ‘look on bright side’ sometimes. It’s a shift in perspective, and a valuable gift to be given by anyone. So, I’m not talking about making jokes, although cheesy jokes and puns work too! My humour tends to be observational, and usually self-deprecating. I don’t take myself seriously, and am known for ‘always smiling’. Actually, my mother is the one who is always smiling. I’d say I chuckle to myself quite a lot, like a child. But a time came, when I couldn’t put a smile on and that’s natural. You can’t force it. Oftentimes we need to go through the ‘stages of loss’ before we can gather ourselves.

When we can’t be the source of our own joy, that’s where comedy shows, animated films, and comedians come in and save the day. At least, that’s where I turn to for laughter. It’s pure escapism and worth it’s weight in gold! This is why ‘fake laughing’ has been proven to boost your mood and have numerous other physical benefits. I admit I’ve never tried it, but I’d be prepared to, if I’d exhausted all other possibilities. I can find joy in music, films, art and books without expectations of laughter of course. In those instances, it’s possible to release personal sadness through crying about someone fictional or in real life, on any media. And then, it can feel like we’ve been freed up to laugh again. Maybe, for us all, that time is now.

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