By: Samantha Seebode, Suicide Prevention, Graduate Assistant
As we reach week four of community quarantine, I’m finding myself just as restless as the tigers at Carole’s Big Cat Rescue. Feeling caged in my own apartment leaves me hoping I don’t run out of laundry to fold or drawers to organize so I can put off the anxiety we are all facing just a little longer. To distract myself, it’s likely you’ll find me lost in the world of Instagram or TikTok hoping to watch something ridiculous enough to leave me crying laughing on the couch amidst the pandemic chaos off-screen. My guess is I’m not the only one, and there’s a reason for that.
While there is plenty of research on the physical impact of laughter – it stimulates your organs, allows for oxygen-rich blood circulation, increases release of endorphins & neuropeptides that fight stress – there is less discussion on the purpose of humor and why people use it regularly. Think of the last time you told a joke, looked at a meme, watched a goofy video, or even just thought about something that has made you laugh at any point in your life. Why was it funny? Did it make you feel good about yourself? Was there a feeling of connection to the creator or original poster of the content? Did it aim to relieve some stress or break tension? Even though there is less research on these things, what has been found boils down humor even more effectively than any contestant has boiled water on Nailed It.
Humor is best explored through two lenses – positive/negative and self/others. Negative humor is intended to harm or hurt, either self-defeating or aggressive (toward others). While aggressive humor doesn’t offer positive outcomes, self-defeating humor is sometimes used to try to connect with others by means of “humble-brag” or some ineffective attempt at modesty, but it most often leads to low self-esteem and contributes significantly to depression. Right now, in the words of Miss Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins amidst an apartment fire, “ain’t nobody got time for that”.
Instead, our time is better spent focusing on positive humor – self-enhancing humor which allows us to cope with stress or affiliative humor which provides an opportunity to connect with others. In this time of constant uncertainty, it serves all of us to find ways to incorporate these kinds of humor into our daily lives. I have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some examples of how people are doing this to create moments of joy that allow them to cope individually as well as a part of the greater community – talking about pets and children as “co-workers”, recreating famous photos using things around the house, sharing online documents filled with ridiculous dad jokes, reminiscing about the days of Baby Yoda memes, helping detectives investigate the disappearance of Carole Baskin’s ex-husband, etc.
I encourage you to take part in enjoying these moments whenever you can and making your own when possible. Be well & take care!