E#45: Is Laughing Good For You?
This is a episode I'll look at why laughter helps us and how to do laugh more often.
(This is the core of the transcript from the podcast. The Intro has been removed and some areas improved for reading ease.)
This podcast is about laughter. At this time, where we have a lot of anxiety and worry, this is a good time to talk about why laughter is the best medicine. The science is clear; humour helps in so many ways. In fact, I recently interviewed Hayley Wickenheiser, one of the greatest hockey players in the world, a real legend in so many ways, and she was talking about how laughter has helped her on and off the ice in creating a better environment with others. That episode will be airing in the next week or so, and it was a real personal highlight for me.
Some of the most successful people I’ve met and read about, know how to laugh and find humour in their day to day life. In my opinion, you can’t survive without it, and it’s hard, especially in the world of medicine. And if you are surviving, you most likely are not thriving. How many people do you know in your workplace that don’t laugh or are unwilling to laugh?
successful people, know how to laugh
So the essential question today is: How often do you laugh in your day or during the week? Laughter is the best medicine because of the positive endorphins that we release when we laugh. Now depending on what statistic you read, people laugh anywhere from 5-17 or more times a day. In my experience, I’ve seen enough people, especially doctors, who don’t always seem to laugh a lot. I’m not sure why; maybe they feel it’s wrong to laugh or smile, but my experience is that patients, staff and colleagues like it when you, as a health care provider, can laugh and know how to find the humour in life.
We know that laughter increases the endorphins in our body, boosts our immune system, decreases pain, our stress level drops, it lowers our blood pressure, stimulates mental activity and sharpness and even burns calories.
How often do you laugh in your day or during the week?
Even more so, laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Have you ever been in a situation where there may be conflict or tension, and something funny happens and the whole mood changes between both of you? Nothing is better than a shared laugh. I’ve seen people ready to fight, and then something funny happens, and they stop being angry at each other and then start to look for common ground and even become friends. A shared laugh changes the energy between people for the better.
Laughter/humour is a skill that can be learned, and that needs to be nurtured and cultivated regularly. And I think there are two components to this or two questions to ask,
The first, are you in a state where you are willing to laugh at things?
laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
I think in order for laughter even to occur, both people have to be in a receptive state to catch or engage in the everyday funniness of life, situation or joke. Sometimes we’re just too busy or too serious in the work that we do that we forget to laugh. And in the world of medicine or even outside of medicine, there’s a lot of hard, crappy and sad things that happen and if we don’t find a way to lighten our inner spirit, and if we don’t feel the day to day joy that can occur, and if you and I don’t do that we won’t last for the long haul.
I’m fortunate enough where I work, people do want to laugh, but that’s not often the case in certain work cultures. Some work cultures are void of laughter, and I’m willing to bet, that place is also void of joy and probably has a high turnover rate or burnout rate.
there’s a lot of hard, crappy and sad things that happen and if we don’t find a way to lighten our inner spirit, and if we don’t feel the day to day joy that can occur, and if you and I don’t do that we won’t last for the long haul.
I bet you can tell how productive a work environment is by observing if people are smiling or laughing. Studies have shown that happy people are productive people and happy people know how to laugh.
I think there may be a myth that if you are laughing, you’re not productive or doing proper work. And that is not true.
you can tell how productive a work environment is by observing if people are smiling or laughing.
In the world of medicine, you can do both, without sacrificing patient care or clinical outcomes. So much of the work in medicine has a heaviness to it in terms of dealing with people’s illnesses and life situations. If you have no way to counteract that stress, you’ll get burned out and fatigued. Laughter elevates the work culture.
And that leads me to the second part of the laughter equation, and that is, should you try to be funny or try to tell jokes? I know that I am always trying to make jokes and trying to find the humour in things, and anyone who works with me knows that, and we do actually have lots of laughs at work. Now you may be thinking, Lalit, these podcasts aren’t funny, and I’d say you’re darn right, they aren’t. I’ve seen and listened to my podcasts and they aren’t funny at all but I guess if they were, I’d have named it differently, like the Comical Doctor.
Now here’s the thing with humour you have to try to be funny and see if a joke or situation will land. If you listen to the best comedians, they’ll tell you that being funny is a skill and something you can create and become better at.
My father one time caught me laughing at someone when I was a kid, and he said to me,
Now at no time, am I advocating teasing or making fun of someone. My father one time caught me laughing at someone when I was a kid, and he said to me, “teasing is the lowest form of humour because it takes no intelligence to laugh at someone else’s expense. Never tease anyone, that’s not even humour”.
I remember that advise, and there is great wisdom in that. I do have a caveat though, that humour sometimes directed towards politicians seems to be okay to me for some reason, I don’t seem to get offended by that. Sorry, dad.
So, in summary, make sure you have room for laughter in your life and do this daily, it has so many personal benefits to your health and the health of your work culture and home culture.
You should find ways to laugh, whether it’s by reading comics or watching videos that make you laugh? I know I appreciate my good friend Kathi and Cathy, who are always posting somethings of Facebook, and that makes me laugh.
So I leave you with two final thoughts: are you willing to find the funny in a situation? Are you prepared to laugh if someone tries to make a joke? Because laughter is the best medicine, and that is no joke.
Stay Calm, find daily joys and live with intention.
A shout out to all my colleague's nurses, doctors and allied health care professionals who are helping to keep society safe and healthy. And a shout out to all the beautiful people who are doing the right thing by social isolation, and connecting with others and helping the vulnerable people who could use our help right now.
I'm Dr. Lalit Chawla and thank you for listening.
May excellent health, happiness and magic grace you and your loved ones.
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I would love to hear any comments about this podcast and what would you like to hear in future episodes?