Have you ever wondered why someone is always playing around? You know, someone who never seems to be serious about anything, that cousin, friend or sibling you have that just can’t stop clowning. Is it just plain annoying?
Or have you ever been in a down mood and needed a good laugh from a movie or TV show? By now, many have heard the saying, “I guess one must laugh to keep from crying.”
Why is that? Where did this saying come from? Does laughter cure pain? These are all valid and interesting questions. Humor can be a useful tool to cope with adverse experiences.
Humor is being increasingly accepted as a strategy for coping with stress. There are several benefits to humor. Some mental/emotional benefits are easing anxiety and fear, improving mood, relieving stress, and enhancing resilience.
Some social benefits are strengthening relationships, attracting others, resolving conflict and improving teamwork.
Some psychical benefits are boosting immunity, decreasing pain temporally, relaxing muscles, and preventing heart disease by improving the function of blood vessels and increasing blood flow.
Overall, humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused and alert.
Research on the positive effects of humor on health and perceptions of wellness has helped to identify why laughter helps us cope. In the 1980s, a number of studies supported the idea that laughter stimulates the immune system and counteracts the effects of stress hormones.
Endorphins are the main hormone released from humor. Endorphins promote an overall sense of wellness and can even temporarily relieve pain.
So, even though humor is being more accepted in the therapeutic world, Black folks have been using this for decades. We rather consciously or unconsciously have understood the power of humor when dealing with difficult situations.
However, we can use our humor as our primary form of healing. This begins to be a form of “escapism,” which does not allow us to deal with our issues directly and in a constructive manner.
We know there is nothing funny about “the struggle.” However, it gives us a sense of ease to know that we can place the pain to one side and keep it moving with a smile. Doing this allows us to have some sense of control of our discomfort or displeasure.
Without this coping method, we lack a mechanism to regulate our emotions in the best way at the moment. Psychologically, this is a significant method for survival. Without this method, many things that affect our spirit can get to our core and really break us down.
So, think about this the next time something happens that affects you negatively. Also, there must be a context and some balance for the humor. We cannot laugh about everything. Everything is not a laughing matter. We must get more serious about things. This is essential for the Black community to survive.
However, being too serious can allow us to miss some of the joys of life. Therefore, we must have multiple ways to deal with our troubles, issues and stressors. So, if laughter is going to be one of our core coping mechanisms, in the Black community, we must set some limits or it can come at a price.
Pain is not a laughing matter. However, maybe, in some cases, laughter can be the best medicine.
Brandon Jones M.A. is a mental health practitioner. He welcomes reader responses to [email protected] or follow him on twitter @UniversalJones.