By  Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

Humor helps to distract from difficulties, like the COVID 19 pandemic. Humor also helps us all stay healthy, according to a recent New York Times article ( ).

Dr. Michael Miller, a cardiologist at the School of Medicine at the University of Maryland said, “Heightened stress magnifies the risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes. Having a good sense of humor is an excellent way to relieve stress and anxiety and bring back a sense of normalcy during these turbulent times.”

In basic biochemical terms, laughter releases nitric oxide, which reduces blood pressure, decreases clotting, and relaxes blood vessels.  A study of older men and women in Japan associated laughter with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.  A Norwegian study found an association between humor and a longer life, especially for women.  Dr. Miller “prescribes” a “deep psychological laugh that elicits tears of joy and relaxation” each day.

A neuroscientist at University College London, Sophie Scott, has data to show that laughter reduces stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. It also improves the body’s absorption of endorphins, natural feel-good hormones.

Short-term memory and the ability to learn was improved for older adults by watching a funny video. This study was at Loma Linda University, by Dr. Gurinder Singh Bains.

In the challenge of adverse circumstances, George Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University, found that humor helps people stay more resilient. This applies of course to the current COVID 19 pandemic.  We are more likely to “…. keep negative emotions in check and gives us a different perspective, allowing us to see some of the bad things that happen to us as a challenge rather than a threat.”

Small “doses” of humor, carefully and empathically offered, can be a meaningful part of psychotherapy, whether it is initiated by the client or the therapist.  Shared laughter can be a healing part of therapy.

Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA. A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at 310  539-2772 or  Telehealth sessions by phone or video are available.

Copyright 2020 by  Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

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