Eunseo Baek, EunSol Choi, Ying-Shi Chou, Sooyeong Jeong and Kate Pearson
If you doubt the power of laughter, consider the “Chewbacca Woman.” Candace Payne, mother of two kids in Texas donned a mask of the hairy Star Wars character, Chewbacca, and posted her uncontrollable nonstop four-minute laughter spasm. Her viral guffaw set a Facebook record, with 136 million views. Furthermore, it’s being shared on other sites and social media. For a moment, we paused from our busy day to laugh along with the video. As Latter-day Saints, we also paused to think about the role of humor in our lives.
After purchasing the mask on her 37th birthday, she sat in the car wearing a Death Star t-shirt reading “Epic Fail.” She streamed video via Facebook, strapping on the mask, and commencing an historical laughing fit so boisterous it ignited a global chuckle. Why did she derive such joy from such a simple thing? How did something most would find only mildly amusing send her into such a blissful ecstatic state? “Oh, I am such a happy Chewbacca and I kind of want to drive around like this!”
After becoming a Facebook celeb, Payne was interviewed by the BBC, NPR, and “Good Morning America, and so on. However, her dream is just to meet Steve Harvey and dance with Ellen DeGeneres.
Payne shared her thoughts about social media and encouraged others to set an example for cheering people up. She said, “I just think our world needs that amount of joy right now.” Social media is all about how we use it, and can bring joy to people. She has heard from people who are suffering from anxiety or depression thanking her for lifting their spirits and making them laugh. Payne felt so happy her laughing could help someone, she said, “I finally felt that Chewbacca got his joy back and all was right with the world.”
Quotes from Candace Payne (See one of her interviews at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ne27NcgO6I
“I’m a stay-at-home mom. I only had a few minutes before I had to go get my kids from school,” the mom told the “Late Late Show” host on Monday.
“I wanted to prove to all of my Facebook friends and family that that mask was mine.”
“I know that the minute that [my kids] saw it that they were going to take it from me,”
“And I’m like, ‘I didn’t buy it for you, little kids. I love you, but this isn’t for you.’”
“I’ve had some people — they’ve sent me private messages, and they’ll just say stuff like, ‘Man, I’ve been battling depression. So-and-so passed away, and I hadn’t laughed since they died and this video made me laugh again,’ ”
Health Benefits of Laughter
Psychologically, humor can reduce stress and anxiety that often lead to other physical ailments. According to Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan at the Loma Linda University in California, laughter has the following benefits (See full article at: http://life.gaiam.com/article/7-benefits-laughter):
1. Laughing lowers blood pressure. Research indicates a link between laughter or relaxed state and the lowering of blood pressure.
2. Reduces stress hormone levels. Something as simple as telling jokes with friends can relieve daily stress.
3. Fun ab workout. During laughter, stomach muscles expand and contract, thus making it a physical exercise.
4. Improves cardiac health. Laughter is a great cardio workout and gets your heart pumping. You even burn calories.
5. Boosts T cells. T cells, or immune system cells can be boosted through humor enabling the body to fight off illness.
6. Triggers the release of endorphins. Laughing releases endorphins, which can ease chronic pain.
7. Produces a general sense of well-being. Studies show that people with a positive outlook have a greater chance of fighting certain diseases compared to those with negative demeanors.
Religion and Laughter
Religious denominations vary regarding the role of laughter. Humor plays a role in most faith communities, although some religions consider it incongruous with the sacred. For example, parishioners of older religions tend to be more at ease with humor. This is according to Diana Mahony in The Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media. Catholics, for example are comfortable with jokes about the Pope, while Mormons tend to be uneasy with jokes about the Prophet. Such humor breaches the sacred realm of worship and clergy.
Mormonism, however, is a theology of the family, and when humor uplifts and strengthens family, members are reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:4 “A time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance…”
What role does laughter play in the LDS belief system? In the Bible we read, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” (Prov. 17:22.),and Jesus himself counselled that we “be of good cheer”. (John 16:33), but at the same time Doctrine and Covenants section 88 reminds the saints to “cease from all … light speeches, from all laughter … and light-mindedness” (D&C 88:121) and to “cast away … your excess of laughter far from you” (D&C 88:69), along with our “idle thoughts.”
According to a 1974 LDS address, “it would not be wise to attempt to define “excess of laughter” or “much laughter” in terms of decibel levels or time limits.”; although, leaders caution against humour which berates others or makes light of sacred things.
Anyone who has frequented LDS services, is no stranger to the puns, quips, and witty anecdotes that often fly from the pulpit, stirring a congregation all to ready to laugh out loud. Notable LDS church leaders have spoken on the value of humour and even declared that humour unifies marriages, creates fun family relationships, and helps keep life in perspective.
In his talk, “the power of laughter”, Gary Palmer explains that laughter helps us cope with the struggles of life, and suggests we look to the example of children who reportedly laugh 400 times a day on average, compared to15 times for adults. “Humor is in the way we see things, the way we think. It’s an attitude, not an event. Perhaps the key lies in becoming more childlike.”, Palmer said.
Previous LDS Church President, Gordon B. Hinckley, and his wife Marjorie were known for their keen sense of humour.
Sister Hinckley said, “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache”.
Do we laugh enough in the LDS community? Is there something we can learn from the Chewbacca Mom about finding joy in everyday life?