Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many folks may be experiencing increased worry over contracting or spreading the virus, concern for loved ones, and the sorrow, loneliness or social isolation that can accompany the need to be physically distant from others. In fact, stress, sadness, and fear are “par for the course” in times of crisis (1), so finding ways to inject laughter and humour into our days to help us maintain perspective can seem challenging. But it’s worth a try, after all they do say that “laughter is the best medicine…”
One recent systematic review shed a little bit of light on some strategies we can use to incorporate laughter and humour. These strategies are aptly titled “laughter and humour interventions” (2). One common example of a laughter intervention is laughter yoga, a combination of yoga breathing and laughing exercises (2;3). Humour interventions involve purposely using a humorous activity—such as watching a funny movie or telling jokes—to help people identify, communicate, and value the at times inconsistent or seemingly ridiculous aspects of life in a fun way (2;4;5).
What makes these strategies even more relevant at the moment is that some can be done at home. This can be as easy as popping on a funny movie, registering for an online laughter yoga program, or following along with online videos. Although there are versions of these strategies that require payment, others can be free.
So, should you invest time and potential resources into “tickling your funny bone?
What the research tells us
The review looked at adults engaging in laughter interventions such as laughter yoga and laughter exercises—either alone or in combination with other activities—or humour interventions such as skills training or watching a funny movie. These folks were generally compared to those maintaining their regular lifestyle.
Overall, some evidence shows that laughter and humour interventions may help to reduce feelings of sadness and worry in adults. However, the size of the impact is only small to moderate. Another check-mark on the side of laughter interventions is that they may give a small boost to sleep quality, although this positive finding is only based on a couple of studies included in the review. The authors of the review also note that, so far, there appears to be no negative side effects from trying out these strategies. With that said, it’s important to keep in mind that more research with a greater number of participants and different populations and study designs is needed to confirm any positive effects.
Where does that leave us? Well, given that these strategies are seemingly safe and have the potential to be accessible, they may be worth a try. So, consider popping on a funny movie and settling in for a night of laughter, or check-outing a guided laughter yoga session online. If you’re really brave, plan a virtual stand-up comedy night with your friends/family and actively participate in some joke telling. These are just a few of the many ways we can inject some humour and laughter into our lives during these difficult times.
Please note that these strategies should never replace treatments prescribed to you by a health care professional. If you are looking for more tips on self-care during this pandemic or are experiencing high-levels of mental distress, please refer to the Government of Canada website for information on strategies you can implement or resources you can access for support.