The Irish Medical Times - A laugh a day keeps the doctor away


I would happily be the Grand Marshal for Sarcasm Day and I would love it. I imagine lines of people slow clapping and eye rolling at an ironic parade. 

Arguably we already have too many passive aggressive high holidays (Valentines, Halloween, Easter - why is the Easter Bunny always hiding the eggs?!). Therefore, I am happy to mark World Laughter Day.

As the saying goes, laughter is the best medicine. I’m not suggesting you forgo your penicillins, and your surgical interventions, with a little giggle and a rib tickle. However, there are proven physical benefits to expressing your amusement. 

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, which have pain-relieving and mood-boosting properties, helping to reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger. It also reduces stress hormones, leading to lower blood pressure and heart rate. Studies suggest laughter can increase the production of infection-fighting antibodies, potentially improving your resistance to illness. A good laugh gets your lungs working, bringing in more oxygen and boosting circulation. 

On a more emotional level it's a form of social bonding, sharing laughter strengthens relationships and creates a sense of connection with others. It can help reframe situations, seeing them from a different perspective, and move you to a more positive outlook. 

As a writer and a patient advocate I often try to mix humour and laughter into my narratives to enable me to talk about difficult topics such as death, cancer and heart failure, in a less depressing fashion. I’m not suggesting doctors start delivering a doomsday diagnosis with a knock knock joke.

Laughter is powerful but it is not always appropriate or sensitive. 

It can be used to make fun of people, to ridicule them, to isolate and bully them. Laughing at the wrong time, such as a funeral, could be very upsetting to others. Nervous laughter can manifest when someone is faced with an uncomfortable situation e.g. hearing that someone has been in an accident. It is not intentional, it is an incongruent form of emotional regulation, essentially a coping mechanism. If we were experts in micro-expressions we might catch a fleeting furrowed brow before the laugh which reflects the chucklers honest feelings. 

Humour can be a very individual experience. I’m curious how World Laughter Day would tickle everyone’s fancy. Is laughter simply contagious, like yawning, if you see enough people doing it you will do it yourself? Instead of podcasts and youtube shorts, should people be tuning into laughing tracks, will this become the next mental health craze?

And what happens when the laughter stops? Is the benefit only as long as the joke lasts?   

I believe laughter is beneficial, and can greatly help your disposition, reduce stress, improve your mood, boost your immune system, break the ice, bond, and broach heavy subjects. However, it’s obviously not a cure-all for medical conditions, it’s not a permanent fix for your well being, not everyone shares the same sense of humour, and to be successful it has to be timed correctly in the right setting. 

If you can bear all of that in mind, then relax, kick back with a hoot, and enjoy World Laughter Day. Becoming more light hearted and looking for ways to incorporate humour into your life won’t replace GP visits, but it might make you a little more fun in the waiting room.  

For the online article read here - A laugh a day keeps the doctor away