Laughter as medicine — Lionesses of Africa

by Kathy Mann

It is well-documented that laughter is good for you. In fact there seems to be quite a movement to stimulate laughter as a mechanism to reduce stress. I met someone once who conducts team workshops to laugh together for this very purpose. In my research on methods of healing, I’ve also come across Laughter Yoga, some sessions of which end with ‘laughter meditation’. I understand the benefits of laughter, but I also know that this is just not for me. Just as some people simply are not interested in meditation or a gratitude journal, forced group laughter is just something I can’t bring myself to do.

I am fortunate, however, to have two young children at home who bring sincere laughter to every day of my life. Sometimes they just have no idea why I’m laughing and other times we laugh together. I find that tickling them releases the most intense and cute laughter of all, and I end up laughing along. Once my oldest daughter, at around three years old asked me “What’s this terrible fish?” and I answered dryly, “chicken”. The thought of her assessment of my cooking, and what I’d have to do to the fish to gain that consistency, sent me into hysterics that she struggled to understand. 

Another incident that still makes me chuckle, about 20 years later, is from university. I had a very special friend Mark who is also Catholic and pretty close to perfect. He was a star academic achiever, tidy, fun, responsible and really popular. We went to mass at the local church and on one occasion, he dropped the communion and it rolled like a coin on its rim across the alter while time seemingly stood still. He ran after it crouching over, grabbed it and put it into his mouth. He was, of course, mortified by the fact that he had dropped the Body of Christ on the floor! He showed the priest it was in his mouth by pointing dramatically and repeatedly before swallowing. Because church is such a serious place, it makes it even more conducive to hysterical laughter under the circumstances. I think I laughed more on that day than in the rest of my 20s put together. 

Towards the end of last year my health was at its worst. I struggled to find the joy in anything and I was really struggling to cope. In the Christmas holidays, with my kids being home, I was under quite a lot of strain. I had not yet started any medication to alleviate my symptoms. In order to escape the mayhem of the house, I went into my study and I watched dozens of short clips on YouTube. I really enjoy British humour and I am a big fan of David Mitchell. The clips of That Mitchell and Webb look are so funny that they really did lift my spirit at a time when I was feeling physically terrible and very down as a result.

There are many people struggling with depression, ranging from minor to serious and for a variety of reasons. I would encourage you to find things to laugh about, even if you have to Google them. You are the best investment you can make in your life. Remember that if you’re happy, those around you benefit too. 

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