Go ahead and laugh
I signed up to receive a funny email every day from ajokeaday.com. This is just one of the jokes this week:
An old man walks into a bar, sits down and starts crying. The bartender asks, "What's wrong?"
The old man looks at the bartender through teary eyes, and between sobs says, "I married a beautiful woman two days ago. She's a natural blonde, 25, intelligent, a marvelous cook, a meticulous housekeeper, extremely sensitive to my wants and needs, very giving, my best friend and intensely passionate in bed."
The bartender says, "But that sounds great! You have what every man wants in a woman, so why are you crying?"
The old man looks at the bartender and says, "I can't remember where I live!"
I signed up for a daily laugh because it's so easy to get bogged down by the bad news that floats across my desk each day: house fires, car accidents, drug-induced zombielike attacks, factory closings, dramatic public meetings, accusatory campaign ads, child abusers, organizations that don't report child abusers, lawmakers spouting half-witted falsities under the guise of following God, to name a few. The list seems never ending, but I figure there's no better weapon against the onslaught of sad news than laughter. Perhaps that's why every newspaper has a comics page; ours is in the sports section, just in case.
I'm sharing this tidbit with you wonderful readers because fall is almost over and we're coming into a season when many people experience depression and emotional issues.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression that occurs at a certain time of the year, usually in the winter. People who live in areas where there's little natural light in the winter (such as Alaska) are at greater risk of developing SAD. Doctors recommend eating right, getting plenty of sleep and exercise, avoiding drugs and alcohol and seeking medical or professional help if needed. People with SAD can benefit from light therapy, according to the library's website.
Connecting with others is also an important part of feeling better, according to the website.
"Try to be around people who are caring and positive. Volunteer or get involved in group activities," the writers of the website suggest.
Turns out, laughter, which not only puts a smile on our faces and instantly brightens our moods, is also thought to be an ancient mechanism to help people connect with others.
Dr. Robert Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at University of Maryland, and several research assistants watched people at malls and on city streets, keeping track of how often they laughed and what prompted their giggles. The result?
"Contrary to folk wisdom, most laughter is not about humor; it is about relationships between people," Provine wrote in a column for msnbc.com in 1999.
Provine said laughter communicates playful intent, which has a bonding function within individuals of a group. He notes that people from all parts of the world understand laughter and use it in much the same way. He said animals also "laugh." Primates exhibit a panting sound, their type of laughter, in situations when humans would gaffaw. Even rats laugh, making a high-pitched noises during play and when tickled, Provine wrote.
Plus, laughter really is good medicine. According to a Psychology Today article written by Hara Estroff Marano in 2005, laughing reduces pain, lowers blood sugar levels, improves job performance (especially for those who work in creative or problem-solving fields) and helps blood vessels function better. It also releases endorphins (the natural happy drug) and offsets the impact of mental stress.
So laugh. Bad times will happen. Jobs are lost, children grow up and move away, finances crumble, bill collectors call and medical tests bear terrifying news, and while it's normal and healthy to grieve, you'll eventually want to get back up on that horse again. Laughter could be a solid way to start.
(Julie Nicolov is an assistant editor at The News-Item and writes "Don't Get Me Started" for each Friday edition. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org).