Importance of smile, laughter in being ‘resilient’ after disaster and difficult circumstances cited PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 20 May 2014 11:06



Smile or laughter is something that is not sold or both. It comes naturally from a person that indicates his/her happy feeling has a part in developing one’s resilient attitude.

According to Thelma Barrera, program officer of the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) for Mental Health Psychosocial Support, it is perhaps only in the Philippines where you can see people smiling even in the wake of disasters.

Speaking at a forum held at the Department of Social Welfare and Development Auditorium in Barangay Batasan Hills, Quezon City recently, psychologist Barrera recalled a global survey that shows Filipinos are the happiest people in the world and that this was proven when super typhoon “Yolanda” devastated a number of towns, cities and provinces in six regions of the country last November.

Barrera noted that such smile was not seen among the Americans when deadly Hurricane “Katrina” hit the United States in 2005.

“That is why staff members of humanitarian organizations that helped in the relief and recovery efforts of the government in ‘Yolanda’-affected areas were amazed by the resilient attitude of Filipinos,” she said.

She explained that such ability of the Filipinos to smile and be resilient even amid difficulties was best reflected by the typhoon survivors who managed to smile and even dance while clearing the debris left by the strong cyclone.

”Aside from strong support system like family and reliable friends who have given them assurance that they could stand up and rise again from the failure they had, their ability to laugh and smile was one of the best coping styles,” Barrera said.

According to her, smile or laughter releases stress, worries and other negative feelings like anger and hopelessness and makes a person see the other bright side of life.

“When a person smiles or laughs, his/her brain releases a neuro-transmitter or an ‘endorphin’ hormone. This is a ‘feel-good’ or happy hormone. The more you laugh and smile, the more endorphin is released which helps in the release of stress and sadness due to misfortunes suffered,” the NCMH psychologist explained.

She noted that in contrast, there is no endorphin or happy hormone released if a person is not smiling or in a serious mood.

She also pointed out that out that because of happy attitude, individuals can begin thinking about everything they have in their life, or count the blessings they have received and not the ones they have lost.

“When a person is in a happy state of mind, he/she clearly thinks about the positive side of life, like for example, his family and friends and other caring people or volunteers and the government willing to help him/her to surpass a difficult stage of life,” she said.

“During psychosocial sessions with survivors (of the disaster), we let them realize everything they still have or possess, resources, ability and plans to help them cope, aside from the laughter yoga wherein they could release their fears and trauma,” she stressed.

She further said that strong faith in God, in whatever forms of religion, is one of the underlying factors that also make Filipinos “di natitinag” (resilient) amid tragedies.

Barrera noted how the survivors drew strength from the Divine Power that they believed to be guiding and protecting them in the face of strong challenges.

“As most of them said, at the height of the destructive typhoon, they cried and prayed ‘we will not lose hope, God is with us, we entrust our life to Him’ and other sort of prayers was an indication that they derived their strength to face challenges from God’s mighty power, that faith in God is also a source of courage and resilient attitude among Filipinos,” she said.

Moreover, she noted that the resiliency of the Filipino people could also be traced through the mixture of, or diverse, cultures they have.

“Filipinos have passed through a lot of conquerors— Spaniards, Japanese, Americans that invaded us. The strength or resilient attitude of our people can be attributed also to the courage shown by our heroes in winning the freedom we now have, which perhaps shows how resilient we are as a nation,” Barrera said.