Summer marked a time of 2 huge celebrations in the city of Chicago. The first was the victory parade and rally in recognition of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory. The second was the annual 4th of July fireworks and related festivities. As I stood among the throng of Blackhawks fans in front of the Chicago Cultural Center wedged together like sardines at Randolph and Michigan and then a few days later experienced another crowd, less congested on the bike path at Foster Avenue Beach and looked up at the fireworks display with others strewn along the lakefront path and beach, I had a sobering thought. There is something truly good and healthy about celebrations.
Celebrations bring together diverse groups of people for a common purpose. The representation of various ethnic, racial and social groups that were there enjoying the fireworks could rival any UN meeting or world summit. Although police and firefighters were present in case the fireworks or crowds got out of control, the common purpose for being together seemed to keep altercations from occurring and the event was peaceful. And in the moments that the new or unique fireworks illuminated the sky, the connective thread and good will among the crowd could be felt.
The happiness that celebrations can stimulate has proven health benefits (A Better Brain at Any Age. The Higher Way to Improve Your Memory, Reduce Stress and Sharpen Your Wits (Sondra Komblatt, 2009). There is a field of study called gelotology where the focus is on the rich health benefits of laughter. Laughter causes the pituitary gland to release opiates which work against pain (Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness, 1979). Laughter can also lower blood pressure, increase blood flow and oxygenation of the blood.
So for a Blackhawks fan that experienced a range of emotions after their win, anticipated displays of emotion would include revelry and over the top behavior as was exhibited the night the Hawks beat the Boston Bruins. Fans swarmed the streets,spilling out of bars and venues on Clark Street and picked up street dividers. Gatherings of fans and the shared support of their team helped create a community where people felt connected and not isolated. In an article in Prevention Magazine, writer Christina Goyanes highlighted 5 distinct health benefits of being a sports fan.
1. Being an avid sports fan inspires people to get active
2. Watching sports, whether live or onTV burns calories, partly from the jumping up,sitting and standing
3. You extend your life span
4. Watching sports with a spouse or significant other promotes a healthier relationship
5. Watching sports and noting facts,figures and statistics on a team exercises the brain (Goyanes, 2011)
Likewise,the act of yelling during a celebration can have numerous health benefits. Yelling can create a natural high similar to runners high by triggering the release of endorphins (Peter Califiura, MD, 2009).
So the next time you yell hysterically at baseball game, dance blisters into your feet at a wedding reception, or find yourself jumping up and down a concert for your favorite group, remember, it’s all good for your health.