Laughter: The Best Medicine

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Do you find your serious romantic relationship getting a little too serious? Maybe it’s because you and your significant other are lacking an underrated but key ingredient: humor. Oftentimes we get so caught up in our busy lives that we will laugh when the opportunity presents itself, but we fail to actively create opportunities for laughter.

Research has shown that laughter has many health benefits, such as improved heart rate, circulation, and immune system functioning. Because laughing uses multiple muscle groups, it creates the same benefits as aerobic exercise. It also causes the release of endorphins, our natural “feel good” chemical that buffers physical pain and prevents depression. When we feel good physically and mentally, we are better equipped to have healthy and happy relationships.

Humor is beneficial not only in everyday interactions, but can also be a great tool for diffusing tension during a conflict. Humor allows a more positive reframe of the situation that decreases the anxiety associated with conflict. As emotions are running high and the blood pressure is up, laughter is one of the quickest ways to bring the conflict down to a more manageable level. After all, it’s difficult to stay mad at someone when he or she makes you laugh (believe me—I’ve tried!).

You might not be naturally gifted at this strategy (like myself), but speaking from experience, I believe it can be learned. My significant other happens to be great at thwarting my attempts to engage in petty conflicts by using humor. One of his favorite tactics is public embarrassment. For example, during a silly grocery store argument that had turned into stony silence, he purposely bumped into a stack of boxes and theatrically fell to the ground, making a loud commotion. As concerned onlookers checked to make sure he was ok, I had to walk away laughing and red-faced in embarrassment, forgetting all about my frustration.

I’ve tried to learn from his example, and found that while I’m inclined to be more serious during a conflict, if I look for the humor I can find it in most situations. There are certainly times when making a joke during a fight might not be appropriate, and you shouldn’t expect humor to diffuse every conflict. It’s important when utilizing humor that it does not mock the other person or his/her viewpoint, or push buttons. It’s always a safe bet to take the one-down position by poking fun at yourself, which is a great way to disarm the other person and make him or her more open to seeing things from your perspective.

Each couple will develop their own unique sense of humor using their knowledge of each other, inside jokes, and shared experiences. Take the humor challenge today and try bringing a little more laughter into your relationship. There is good reason to think that the couple who laughs together, stays together.

*Below are a few ideas to get you started on things to do with your partner that will get you both laughing:

-Each person rents his/her favorite funny movie and watch together.

-Playing board games such as Guesstures, Imaginiff, Mad Gab, and Outburst.

-Taking funny photos together (Try Big Face/Little Face: First make your face as small as you possibly can by scrunching it up, then try making it as big as you can—I guarantee you will be laughing as you review your work!)

-Randomly text or e-mail your partner funny quotes from your favorite movies or t.v. shows.

-Check out the humor section of your favorite bookstore and browse together.

-Karaoke your little hearts out—or just watch others if you aren’t the performing type.

Kristy Malone, Master’s student in Marriage and Family Therapy and Graduate Research Assistant for the Alabama Healthy Marriage Initiative

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