Laughter is the Best Medicine

No doubt we have heard this statement at some time in our lives. There have been numerous quotes over the years about laughter and its benefits to our wellbeing. I remember as a child our family subscribed to the Reader’s Digest and I would always read the jokes section which was called “Laughter is the best medicine”. Humour has always been a large part of my life, but it has only been recently that I learnt of the measurable health benefits of laughing.

The body/mind connection has been known for some time and its effects have been well researched. The placebo effect is a good example of how the mind and the body interact. In the placebo effect, the mind which believes it is taking a substance that will heal the body, appears to have an influence on the body’s healing.

Dr. Lee Berk, is an associate professor at Loma Linda University in California and has spent many years researching the effects of laughter on health. Much of the current research was driven by anecdotal stories of people who had healed themselves by watching funny videos and shows. Berk and his colleagues found that not only laughter, but the anticipation of it led to a decrease in stress hormones in the body. The role of stress in the body as a catalyst for disease is well known and researched. Stress hormones are one of the factors that are attributed to poor health outcomes and decreased longevity in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sufferers.

I wrote about this previously in Childhood Trauma and Poor Health Outcomes.

Academic research is now at least partially explaining why this might be the case. Laughter appears to lower stress hormones and inflammation in the body.

There is an important distinction to made however between laughing on one’s own and laughing in a group. Laughter like most human emotions is contagious and is therefore much more intense and pronounced when shared with other people. The relationship between good social connections and better health outcomes is also well known. Some of the benefits of laughter may be due to social inclusion. Therefore, the social aspect of laughing cannot be ignored.  Ella Wheeler Wilcox alluded to this when she wrote “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone” in her well-known poem Solitude.

So, what if you are someone who is not well connected socially? does that mean you cannot enjoy the health benefits of laughter. Not at all. With so much access to TV, DVD’s and the internet there is always an opportunity to watch or listen to something that makes you laugh. As your mood improves you may just find that you not only feel more social, but that you also draw likeminded people to you. As Wilcox wrote: “Rejoice, and men will seek you, grieve, and they turn and go, they want full measure of all your pleasure, but they do not need your woe”.

Even if there were no other benefits from laughing it just feels good. So why not give yourself the gift of laughter and then share it with others. Humour is subjective so find what makes you laugh. It may be a funny TV show, a stand-up comedian or videos on youtube of cats or people doing stupid things. Do it now. Bookmark then close this page and find something that you think is funny.  It could just change your outlook on life as well as your health.

Wishing you all the best in your journey

Phil Miranda


Let’s talk about Bullying and Cyberbullying

Throughout this article I refer to bullying and cyberbullying. While there are obvious differences between the two, the motivations of the bully are similar and so for the most part the terms are interchangeable. Bullying is not a new occurrence. It is unlikely that anyone above primary school age has not been a victim, perpetrator or witness to bullying. With the introduction of modern technology, today’s adolescent is exposed to a subtler, yet potentially more damaging type of bullying, that of cyber bullying. Cyberbullying is bullying that is done through technology, such as the internet, a mobile phone or camera. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, allow hurtful or harmful messages to be spread quickly and to a large audience with relative ease.

Unlike traditional bullying, a one-time act of cyberbullying can continue to cause distress long after the initial act. A malicious online comment, posted once, but viewed and shared multiple times, is a good example of this aspect of cyberbullying. Therefore, cyberbullying, unlike traditional bullying, can potentially take place at any time, any location and with a far greater reach and potential for negative outcomes. Gone are the days when the home was a sanctuary from bullying. Unfortunately, with current technologies the bullying can continue long after someone has left school, university or work for the day.

Recent research suggests cyberbullying is common among young people with access to current technologies. Current research suggests that for school aged children between 8 and 17 years, bullying and cyberbullying rates can be as high as 30%. Prevalence of cyberbullying among young adults, particularly college and university students, has not been researched as extensively. However, it has been suggested that as cyberbullying rates tend to increase with age, much of the current research statistics could be extrapolated to these young adults. Regardless of the exact rates among young adults, negative psychological outcomes from cyberbullying, can have dramatic effects on the wellbeing of individuals.

There are considerable negative consequences of cyberbullying for both victim and perpetrator. Victims can have higher rates of depression, medication use and suicidality. Additionally, perpetrators are more likely to have anxiety disorders, social problems and engage in high risk activities. In an ideal world there would be no bullying and of course without current technologies cyberbullying would be non-existent. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, so we have to work with what we have. As a parent I have experienced the frustration of having a child bullied and receiving a less than satisfactory response from schools, bus companies etc. After talking to other parents, it seems my experience is not uncommon.

The two most common forms of resolving the issue of bullying is preventing the behaviour (changing the bully) and building resilience (changing the victim). If you have read any of my other posts, you would be aware that given choices between trying to change someone else’s behaviour and trying to change our own behaviour or reactions I will always chose the latter. Quite simply because changing ourselves and our reactions to situations is something we have control over whereas trying to change someone else is always difficult.

I believe teaching your child strategies to cope with all forms of bullying is the best way to help them. It not only gives them helpful coping skills but also can increase their self-confidence and self-esteem which are great skills for life. I think it is important to remember that cyberbullying just like traditional bullying is about control, power and getting a reaction. So, take back your control by not relinquishing your power and learn to respond rather than react.

It is beyond the scope of this article to cover all the strategies for dealing with bullying, so I will provide some links to both free and paid resources from some well-respected people in the field of bully prevention.

The first is a free youtube video from Brooks Gibbs and Josh Shipp, both extremely knowledgeable about how to build resilience in your children:

 How To “Bully Proof” YOUR Kid

There is also a great book written by one of the leaders in solving bullying issues, Izzy Kalman. His book Bullies to Buddies: How to Turn Your Enemies Into Friends is a comprehensive look at how to stop bullying without help and without getting anyone else in trouble.

This is also a comprehensive book on cyberbullying and online harassment by Chris Bennetts.

Cyber Bullying and Stalking Guide:How to deal with all forms of online harassment

For the more academically minded there are links to research on bullying/cyberbullying in the sources section at the end of this article.

Remember no matter how bad things might seem there is always hope. They say knowledge is power or more accurately, applied knowledge is power. So, I would encourage you to learn new strategies and skills for dealing with the poor behaviour of some people. Then pass these skills onto your children. You don’t need money, just a little time and a willingness to have yourself and your loved ones live a happier more peaceful life.

If you or someone you know is at risk of self-harm or suicide due to bullying/cyberbullying then please seek support. A list of helplines is available HERE

Wishing you all the best in your journey

Phil Miranda

Dooley, J. J., Pyżalski, J., & Cross, D. (2009). Cyberbullying versus face-to-face bullying: A theoretical and conceptual review. Zeitschrift für Psychologie/Journal of Psychology, 217(4), 182-188. doi:10.1027/0044-3409.217.4.182
Slonje, R., Smith, P. K., & Frisén, A. (2013). The nature of cyberbullying, and strategies for prevention. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(1), 26-32. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2012.05.024