Life as a college student is often a balancing act, and more people could remember to laugh in between.
Students can find themselves preparing for an exam one day, finishing a paper the next, while simultaneously working to make money, and trying to set aside time for friends and social activities.
The stress of this lifestyle is one all too familiar to many. Recent studies prove laughter may reduces students’ stress.
College students and adults who find themselves feeling stressed may want to take a lesson from their pint-size peers. According to the researchers at the Mayo Clinic, the average child laughs 300 to 500 times a day, while the average adult laughs only about 15 times a day.
Keene State College Academic and Career Counselor, Gloria Lodge, said that laughter is a tool for conquering some stress and clear your mind.
“It has been proven through research that laughing releases certain enzymes and chemicals into your brain, which can help you think better and process things better, so I think it’s a real necessity for life, especially for a college student,” Lodge said.
The Mayo Clinic found that laughter can help activate and relieve stress response. According to the Mayo Clinic site, a rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down a stress response, while increasing heart rate and blood pressure, creating a good, relaxed feeling.
Similarly, the site reads that laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
On campus, there are efforts from groups like the Social Activities Council and Student Involvement, to attempt to bring laughter and fun to students in the form of various comedy shows held in the Night Owl Café, the Mabel Brown Room and other venues across campus.
Director of Student Involvement, Jennifer Ferrell, weighed in on the stress that students can experience while in a college setting.
“During this time, you have all these things going on in your life from classes being really important to figuring out what you want to do career-wise or goal-wise in terms of your life and those kind of things can be really stressful. Add on top of that a whole bunch of co-curricular involvement, work obligations, trying to stay connected to family who may or may not be close by—that kind of stuff can make for a really stressful time especially for a traditional college-age student eighteen through twenty-two.”
Ferrell added, “As you’re developing and trying to figure stuff out, it can be even more important to ensure that you’re doing a good job of balancing and de-stressing.”
The comedy shows put on at KSC have proven to be some of the most popular events, and a source for laughter.
Through show attendance and an annual survey asking what kinds of events students would like to see on campus, Student Involvement has found that there is a demand from students for these shows to be put on. Ferrell said she believes having these shows is important for the students’ well being.
“We tend to take a lot of things very seriously and get really invested in, whether it’s classes or our jobs,” she said, “So I think it’s really, really important to have some times where it’s just about laughing, and it’s just about fun and it’s sort of a stress reliever or a different way to put into perspective your life and what’s important, what’s stressing you out and how can you quit being stressed,” Ferrell continued.
“I think there’s value to going out and having a good time and not being worried about your classes, work or other stuff going on in your life for an hour, two hours,” Ferrell added.
The overwhelming success of a sold-out gymnasium comedy show featuring Saturday Night Live cast member Kenan Thompson held during last year’s Spring Weekend activities has the Social Activities Council considering to put on another large scale comedy show again.
However, Ferrell said it has only been a discussion so far and nothing has been finalized.
Aside from traditional laughter outlets like comedy shows, movies or joking with friends, many people across the nation are trying out a not-so-ordinary activity called laughter yoga which is based on the teachings of Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India. Laughter yoga is a practice involving prolonged voluntary laughter, according to meetup.com
While studying abroad in Ireland, senior Celeste Thibault saw a sign for a free laughter yoga club, was interested and decided to give it a try.
Thibault’s laughter yoga club was a two-hour session, which first involved playing “childish” games, like tag, for an hour. This portion allowed participants to open up and feel comfortable with one another.
For the second hour the true laughing portion of the class began.
“We did a couple of exercises where you just laugh for no reason and it gets you more comfortable looking people in the eye and laughing and then at the very end, we would sit all together in a circle and laugh and you would fake it until you could really laugh because after a while it really got funny,” Thibault explained.
Finally, the class would end with quiet meditation, although, Thibault said it was often hard to sit in silence afterwards without someone breaking out into laughter.
Thibault said joining the laughter yoga club was a very positive and rewarding activity that ultimately helped her outside of class.
“I noticed myself laughing probably five times more a day and smiling more. I also noticed myself improving just in little ways, but it made a huge difference in my experience abroad. I was just happier all the time and it helped with finals a lot too, because it gets you out of the classroom and into a place where you’re just laughing and having fun and that’s something you don’t really experience during finals week.”
Rachel Heard can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org