Everyone enjoys a good laugh. But did you know humor has scores of mental and physical health benefits? Plus, humor can help students learn!
Laughter has many positive effects on your body and your brain. When you laugh, your brain releases chemicals and hormones that help lift your mood and make you feel great. These include:
• Serotonin: a mood-enhancing chemical found in many antidepressants boosts your mood and increases feelings of happiness.
• Dopamine: another ‘feel-good’ chemical that decreases anxiety and makes you feel better. This is what they talk about when teaching kids about a ‘natural high.’ Can you get addicted to laughter? Who knows!?
• Endorphins: relieve pain and give you a boost of energy, these are also released when you exercise. (Bonus: Laughing even burns calories. At 40 calories per hour it probably isn’t a replacement for your morning run, but hey, every little bit helps!)
• Stress hormones: Laughter reduces stress hormones and increases immune cells, decreasing your stress levels and giving your immune system a boost.
Humor can help your mental state as well.
• Coping: It’s no wonder with all the effects on the body and brain that laughing can be a powerful coping tool.
Being able to laugh and find the humor in a difficult situation contributes to resilience.
If you can laugh when the chips are down, you’ll get through hard times.
• Combats mood disorders: Feeling depressed or anxious? Laughter really is the best medicine. Laughing can lift your mood and help relieve your worries.
• Reduces stress: Laughter helps you to relax and can change your perspective on the things that stress you.
• Bonds people together: Have you ever had an inside joke with a good friend? The kind where no one else knows why you are laughing so hard? If you have, then you know the power of humor in creating a bond between friends.
Humor isn’t just a tactic to keep students’ attention. It’s crucial for keeping you positive over the course of the year.
• Coping with the Demands of Teaching: Teaching is not an easy profession (despite what some might think, we don’t just play with kids all day). Education is dynamic and demanding. A sense of humor is essential for teachers to continue to teach well and to love teaching.
• Prevents burnout: Laughter can help prevent burnout. It makes teaching more fun and helps your perspective stay positive.
• Reduces stress: Remember, laughter helps your muscles relax, which makes you feel less stressed. All those good feelings help you get through the full moons, rainstorms, and other rough days. Take a minute to relax focus on something funny, whether it’s a cartoon in the day’s newspaper or a funny animal video online.
• Building Friendships: When you laugh and have fun, you build friendships with other teachers. Find someone at work to laugh with and share all the funny little things that happen throughout your day.
Whether it is having a humorous teacher or finding a great VideoModeling™ curriculum, humor can make your classroom a more comfortable setting ultimately leading to a more effective learning experience.
• Engages Students: When students are in a high-stress environment it is much more difficult for them to learn. In contrast,
when we make our classrooms places where laughter, smiles, and happiness are encouraged, it lowers the affective filter, making it possible for students to learn to the best of their ability.
• Don’t overdo it: You don’t have to be a clown to make your students laugh, just think of how to get students laughing at some point in the lesson. For example, you can start with an attention-grabbing joke, wear a silly hat, or incorporate music to get them laughing from the start, setting the tone for fun and learning.
• Complements not distracts: Good humor in the classroom complements learning, rather than distracting from it. The best kind of fun is integrated into the content students are learning.
• Multiple intelligences: Laughter reaches students no matter what their learning style. Humor is something all kids can connect with. What’s more, for something to be funny we must have a connection with something. The simple act of laughing at something immediately connects the student with the content in a meaningful way.
Watch out not to promote inappropriate humor with your students.
• Beware of sarcasm: You may be thinking, but sarcasm is my favorite type of humor! Sarcasm though, unless directed at the pet fish, is not a good idea, especially in a classroom. While some types of sarcasm are appropriate, tread lightly. Sarcasm that is directed at a student or group of students can be harmful.
• Watch what you joke about: Joking about otherwise serious subjects (such as race-related matters) can make students less sensitive to others. As with many things in life, there is a time and a place for laughter.
Teachers are serious about their students’ learning, but that doesn’t mean learning can’t be fun. Have a little fun with your students, laugh with your colleagues, and look for the funny things in life. Your health, your happiness, and your stress level will thank you.
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.