Recently, Bollywood actress and yoga enthusiast Shilpa Shetty Kundra shared a post on her social media page, in which she talked about the importance of carefree laughter. Against her picture, in which she looked positively happy, the actress wrote, “Ever wondered why a carefree laughing session with your friends feels so good? A good, hearty laugh boosts the immune system and relieves physical & mental stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes thereafter. Laughing freely and heartily has become a privilege in our fast-paced lives. So, if meeting up with friends and/or family is a challenge in these times, watch a funny movie/video or read some comedic literature, instead... because laughter truly is the best medicine (sic).”
Giggles and guffaws
Often taken for granted, a good laugh takes a lot of work. And especially in the pandemic, when people spend more time alone, experts believe a good ‘belly full of laughter’ can be very important. For starters, it activates many areas of the brain, which control emotions and cognitive awareness. What’s more, a good laugh even burns calories.
Dr Purnima Nagaraj, a mental health professional at the Dhrithi Wellness Clinic, considers it really unfortunate that most people today seek happiness ‘outside’ instead of looking for it within. “It’s up to us to be happy because happiness lies within us. According to scientists, a good belly laugh enables several changes within the body — it burns calories, releases happy chemicals called endorphins, bringing you the same high after a good exercise regime or a run, and it is like a muscular exercise,” she says. “In fact, endorphins are released even when one is in anticipation of laughter — for instance, if you are sitting in a comedy show — creating a feeling of wellness.”
Dr Purnima further explains that laughter involves the entire brain, activating the left side, which is a seat of emotions bringing about the depth and extent of laughter, as also the right side, which helps one analyse the jokes as lame or good. Further elaborating, Dr Purnima adds, “Especially with the pandemic, when we’re socially isolated, talk less and cannot hug people, a lot of people slip into depression. It’s important to think about happy things, read a book of jokes because the more you laugh the better you’ll feel.”
However, the doctor cautions about forced laughing sessions. “Forced laughter does not help your body as it does not realise the chemicals required to help your body relax; instead, it’s stressful. Feigning a smile and acting happy is equally harmful,” she adds.
Ever wondered why a carefree laughing session with your friends feels so good? A good, hearty laugh boosts the immune system and relieves physical & mental stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes thereafter
— Shilpa Shetty Kundra posted on her social media page
There’s no doubt that a good ‘LOL’ session can turn your day around, improve circulation and generally make you feel positive about your day. So when events such as the pandemic take a toll on our mental and emotional health, many turn to entertainers, comedians, musicians and artists for solace—
Hyderabad-based stand-up comedian and entrepreneur
“Laughter is also a mature defence mechanism in times of stress, which helps you feel relieved and get an optimistic perspective especially in anxiety-ridden times. Additionally, it increases one’s confidence, attracts others and builds personal and professional relationships.”
— Dr Charanteja Koganti, Consultant neuropsychiatrist
Consultant neuro-psychiatrist, Dr Charanteja Koganti, believes that laughter is a therapy especially in anxiety-provoking situations as it diffuses conflict. “Laughter is also a mature defence mechanism in times of stress, which helps you feel relieved and get an optimistic perspective especially in anxiety-ridden times. Additionally, it increases one’s confidence, attracts others and builds personal and professional relationships.”
Dr D Keshav Rao, psychiatrist and president of the Telangana Psychiatric Society, even considers it important that given the year’s showdown people should participate in any sort of laughing exercise. “Watch comedy movies and shows,” he says matter-of-factly.
The comedy angle
Actor and comedian Gaurav Gera also admits to the importance of being happy especially now given the pandemic, with everyone compelled to stay holed in their home and not socialise. “Laughter is undoubtedly good for mental health. But what’s more important is to ensure people around you are feeling happy and that the mood is lightened up. As for issues such as the pandemic is concerned, as humans we are good at adapting to change and embracing the new normal, which we will continue doing too. Staying positive is the key,” he states.
Hyderabad-based stand-up comedian and entrepreneur Avinash Agarwal considers laughing more important than anything else. “There’s no doubt that a good ‘LOL’ session can turn your day around, improve circulation and generally make you feel positive about your day. So when events such as the pandemic take a toll on our mental and emotional health, many turn to entertainers, comedians, musicians and artists for solace,” he shares.
Another comedian, Dr Jagdish Chaturvedi, who’s been doing webinars and comedy shows online throughout the lockdown, also believes getting a dose of laughter is vital during stressful times as it improves circulation to the heart and brain and releases many positive neurotransmitters. “Most importantly, laughter and happiness can spread faster than the virus and its infectiousness and can bring about a positive environment at home and workplaces. This is the positivity we should aim for and this is what we should spread,” he says. Then reminding us to remain safe while staying happy, he adds, “But remember to wear a mask while laughing because even the eyes can reflect the amount of happiness you feel.”