Coronavirus: 'Laughter in a crisis can help you cope', says expert

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Professor Richard WisemanImage source, Guy Hinks
Image caption,
Prof Richard Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, says "finding the funny" is a "common way" of coping

Laughter can help in a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic - and people should not feel guilt about it, according to a university professor.

Psychologist Prof Richard Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, says "finding the funny" is a "common way" of coping.

Laughing in households while following government advice to stay at home is also good for you, he said.

"Don't feel guilty, it's a human thing and if it helps it's OK," he said.

Dr Wiseman holds the UK's only professorship in the Public Understanding of Psychology and previously teamed up with the British Science Association to carry out LaughLab - a scientific search for the world's funniest joke, which explored what made people laugh.

Laughter 'contagious'

For people staying at home to help curb the spread of Covid-19, watching a TV programme, a film or reading a book that they find funny is good "partly because it distracts you and also because it puts you in a good mood", he said.

"Laughter is contagious: you hear people laugh and you laugh as well.

"In your household, if you find something funny, sit and watch that or tell jokes to each other. They don't even have to be particularly funny - they are all good for promoting mood."

He also said joking about the current situation was acceptable, as people often do what comedians call "finding the funny" to deal with stressful events.

"You may feel bad about that but as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else it's a common way of coping," he said.

"There are studies which show that those who find the funny are psychologically and physically healthier.

"There are lots of jokes about our anxieties, such as getting old and our health. It's not about being vindictive, it's about getting through the day with a light touch."

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