Well, it’s been a week. Between being home with my lovely family and dogs, hearing the soothing, quiet sounds of construction right outside my bedroom door and of course UConn announcing that classes would remain online and off-campus for the semester due to public health concerns related to the novel coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), there’s been no shortage of things rushing through my head. But as stressful and unpleasant as our current circumstances may be, I and surely many of you reading this are tired of eating, sleeping and breathing such negativity. We can all use a good laugh right now; this premise may seem obvious, but allow me to explore it a bit further.
For one, laughter benefits us biologically (and please bear with me, I promise not to go too deep into “professor mode”). As a psychology major I can vouch for the validity of the facial feedback effect, which theorizes that one’s facial expression onsets the emotion most heavily associated with said expression. Given that laughter causes most of us to smile, we’re likely to become happier and calmer as a result. Also, laughter allows us to boost our endorphins, a.k.a. neurotransmitters that relieve stress and pain. Without being too crude I’ll add that extreme giggling fits can provide other forms of relief, but that’s not necessarily a downside; after all, the most effective motors release gas rapidly! As long as you don’t choke on your water or allow your throat to dry up, your body should react well to a hearty chortle.
Another underrated aspect of laughter is the brainpower one must exert to make someone laugh. Yes, you need intelligence to devise top-notch humor. But I’m not talking about traditional “book smarts,” useful as they may be. No, I’m referring moreso to knowledge related to effective communication. The best comedians carefully craft the setups for their hard-hitting punchlines so that their audiences remain engaged and wanting more (i.e. they organize their content well). They also consider style and context when presenting material. It’s about not only what you might find funny, but also what those around you might find funny, and tailoring such things to your particular audience and situation. As a specialist in verbal communication I feel incredibly satisfied whenever I employ my quick wit and play off everything around me to say something clever or send a properly timed meme; surely you all can follow suit in using your bright minds to generate some laughs.
Arguably the most obvious byproduct of laughter is its emotional impact. As I alluded to previously, laughter often induces happiness, relaxation and general euphoria. Such conditions prove especially useful in combating internal and external stress and pain, providing a healthy balance in overall comfort level. And the best part is that you don’t even need to be the funniest person in the world to elicit a positive reception (of course I’m not speaking from personal experience because I’m quite hilarious, but you get the picture). As long as those around you see that you’re trying to put them at ease and lighten the mood, they’ll surely appreciate such efforts and reciprocate with genuine smiles and snickers, or with likes and shares on your social media posts.
While things may appear bleak and uncertain now, we shouldn’t lose all hope and sanity. Across the next several weeks I implore you all to stay safe and optimistic, be mindful of those around you whether at home or at your local supermarket, and prescribe yourselves with the best medicine on the market — laughter.
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Michael Katz is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.