Humour as a coping mechanism

On the internet, there are thousands of humorous tweets, memes and comments being made every day, often about serious subjects at the moment one of the common topics is Coronavirus. This may offend some but for many, it is a helpful coping mechanism to deal with anxiety and stress.

However, this is not a new idea it has been around for centuries. In the Court of Henry VIII, there was a jester called Will Sommers. He would often make jokes about the extravagance yet wastefulness of the King, in a normal setting a person would be severely punished for insulting the King but hence the name Court Jester, Henry VIII took it in jest. A more recent example would be the infamous Charlie Chaplin films, The Great Dictator was a political satire about Hitler, it was released during World War II in 1940, in fact at the time Germany occupied a large amount France. This film was poking fun at the war which was still going on where thousands of people from British towns and cities were dying. Nonetheless in Britain, 9 million people came to the cinemas to watch it.

Stanford psychologists did a study in which subjects were asked to “reappraise” negative images but making jokes about them. The results showed the making jokes made the person feel more positive about the images they were seeing. This was forcing the subject to change their perspective on the image. When we hear a joke, dopamine, serotonin and endorphins are released these neurotransmitters make us feel good. Not only can it make us feel better it can prevent negativity in certain situations.

Humour is also helpful to deal with stress and studies have shown it has helped professional men and women to deal with stress. Humour can activate your stress response and relieve it, it also stimulates your organs and it can soothe tension. However, in the long term, it can relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction, improve your mood and your immune system.

Just smiling is good, not just for our mental health but also for our physical health, it relaxes our body and can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Laughter helps to reduce the suffering that you feel in a situation.

While meditation and relaxation can help some people to cope with stress and anxiety, humour also provides a solution for your daily troubles. Next time you feel stressed, try watching a comedy film, going to a standup night or just talking to someone who makes you laugh.

– Emilia Beveridge, year 10