The association of humour and laughter with the healing process, as well as how they can be applied in medical settings are among the subjects that have been widely explored in literature.

Dr. Rod A. Martin, Professor of Psychology at the University of Western Ontario wrote a book titled The Psychology of Humour: An Integrative Approach that provides an integrative review of theory and research findings in various areas concerning the psychology of humour. In his book, Dr. Martin also provides insights on the link between humour and physical as well as mental health, how it can have an impact towards the doctor-patient relationship and its social functions in the workplace.

Benefits of humour and laughter

The fact that healthcare professionals are often subjected to the particular risk of stress and burnout is no longer a recent discussion. In this regard, humour can be a strategy that helps doctors and nurses deal with the stress of caring for patients. Seeing humour in the situation is one of the coping mechanisms that can help physicians to manage stress and prevent burnout. Additionally, having a good sense of humour can lighten up tense situations and lead healthcare employees to foster good relations with one another despite their regular encounter with adverse situations.

There are also studies that examined the benefits of laughter for patients. For instance, findings from one study suggest that laughter may be a useful cognitive-behavioural intervention as it reduces stress, and improves the natural killer (NK) cell activity. Low NK cell activity is linked to decreased disease resistance and increased morbidity in cancer and HIV patients.

Nurses play an important role in bringing humour to patients, given that they spend more time with patients especially during hospitalisation. Humour and laughter can make patients feel more comfortable and distract them from physical pain. Needless to say, in such situations, it is important to be mindful about using appropriate humour with patients as well as knowing the proper time and place for it.

Humour is also found to have psychological and physiological benefits that can help students learn by making the learning experience more pleasant. Randy Garner, a psychologist in Sam Houston State University says that well-planned, appropriate, contextual humour can help students ingrain information.

Lightening up can improve teaching and learning

In the medical setting, this can be applied during classes, courses or training sessions for medical students and junior practitioners. Humour can enhance concepts that would otherwise seem dull to students, and can lead them to think in the context of real-life situations.

Many people believe that humour is an innate character, and that it is not something that can simply be nurtured in anyone. However, those working in the healthcare profession can always find a way to lighten up and find humour in the situation.

Placing humorous reminders that bring funny memories, for instance in the form or posters, trinkets, or mementos might help to reduce stress. Remember to take a step back, appreciate jokes and enjoy being around people with a good sense of humour. MIMS

Read more:
Healthcare professionals: 4 superfoods that can help you with stress relief
Embracing Stress: Why it can be good for you
Managing stress helps prevent physician burnout

Martin, Rod A. “The Psychology of Humour: An Integrative Approach”