Cultural Value: Humor

February 2nd, 2021 by sdpatraw

We all like a good laugh right? Many believe that laughter and a good sense of humor “does good, like a medicine” as the proverb says. Researchers have shown this to be true and even tell us how it works.  It turns out that laughing and smiling actually release neurotransmitters in your brain like dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are referred to as the “feel good” chemicals in our system. A surge of these neurotransmitters in your system are associated with lowered anxiety and increased feelings of happiness. In addition to the release of feel good chemicals, the configuration of the smile on a person’s face is universally perceived as making you more approachable and attractive.  Babies and mothers know this instinctively and begin to use their smile early on to attract attention and pull each other closer together. A good laugh also introduces more oxygen into the body which in turn boosts the immune system by increasing infection-fighting antibodies. In other words, smiling and laughing is really good for your health!

It’s no surprise that Alaska Native cultures list humor as an important value; for centuries, Alaska Native people have been using this free medicine both for self-care and to boost others sense of hope in difficult situations. Good-natured joking and teasing is used in Native American cultures to bring about connection and to communicate to the target of teasing that they are an accepted member of the community. “Teasing is used to test bonds and to create them” according to an article by an expert in social interaction.

You don’t have to be skilled at making people laugh to benefit from this medicine. Anyone can watch a good comedy show and get a few belly laughs. Even lame jokes can get people to smile and with every smile they release those natural wellness chemicals into their bodies. Are you a person who knows how to laugh at themselves by sharing the comedic situations you’ve found yourself in? Getting a group of people to laugh together is powerful medicine. It becomes a collective experience and establishes common ground. Or, are you a flop as a joke teller – perhaps bumbling your way through a joke and then forgetting the punch line? Do not despair, you can still spread feelings of hope and connection just by smiling! Researchers have found that smiling has a contagious quality to it. Smiling at someone not only releases uplifting neurotransmitters, the smile triggers an innate response to smile back and perhaps continue the uplifting practice of greeting the next person they see with a smile!  Amazingly enough, even a fake smile can trigger the release of wellness chemicals in the recipient of the smile. Don’t underestimate the power of a smile to increase wellness in yourself and others. BHAs, go forth and smile!