Laughter really is the best medicine

 

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Laughter really is the best medicine.
Yes, I know it sounds cliché and much too simple, but it really is the best medicine. Laughter is actually the second best way to reduce your stress. Why do you think cat/dog videos are so popular? Because they make you feel good and laugh.

Life doesn’t always go as you planned or as you want it to. Sometimes you get served a big bowl of sh!t and still have to eat it. I know, gross.  In those times, it’s often difficult to see the silver lining or even imagine that things will get better. In those times, you can be susceptible to situational depression, consistent sadness, confusion, being in the doldrums where your perception is doom and gloom.  With enough consistency of that thought process and experience, your brain continues to play mean games with you by focusing on all the things in your life such as your work, your home, your body that are ‘wrong.’  You know, all the things that you say to yourself such as, “I have to, I need to, or I should or I can’t.”  When you are in this state, there isn’t much room for laughter because your mind won’t quit, it’s as if your mind is on a perpetual loop refusing you to relax and enjoy the moment, any moment. Hence, you create more stress, angst, and dislike toward yourself and your environment.

Here’s where laughter comes in.

Laughter breaks up that pattern. Laughter breaks up any stress pattern. Comedians are adept at this. They take painful experiences and tell it in a way that makes it funny.
Laughter actually sets off chemicals and hormones that make you feel good by increasing dopamine levels. If you’re flooded with dopamine, you’re feeling pretty good, thereby reducing your stress levels by reducing the cortisol and epinephrine in your system.  This increases your immune system and mood.

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What Joy in this little face.

The field of psychology has many theories and thought forms with positive psychology being one disciple.  Positive psychology is self-explanatory, focusing on the positive (your strengths) changes/increases your mood and overall satisfaction in life. This is a fairly different perspective than primarily focusing on problems (what’s wrong) within your therapy.  For some people, positive psychology may sound too simple, quackish or too woo-woo.  But, you don’t treat or heal trauma and stress with more trauma and stress. Doesn’t happen. That’s science.

Truth be told, there was a time in my life where I struggled with situational depression/overwhelm meaning that I was so focused on feeling sad, focused on what was wrong that I trained my brain to keep focusing on what was wrong, what needed to be fixed or changed in some way instead of what was right as it was. When I was stressed to the point of literal burnout and my health was impacted, intuitively my body turned toward joy and laughter.  I was so stressed that I literally couldn’t take in any more trauma or stress in any way, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or energetically. Instinctively, I stopped watching or surfing the news online, if I did look at the news, it was only good news. I didn’t look at anything gruesome or violent nor any entertainment gossip. I didn’t reach for my phone first thing in the morning.  Here’s what I did. I only looked at feel good cheesy movies, good news, funny tv shows,  stand-up comedians, and movie cartoons. Although movie cartoons always make me cry, a la The Lion King etc., I laughed and enjoyed myself more often than I worried or felt stressed.

Guess what happened next?  My stress levels went down, I began to lose weight without trying, I wasn’t anxious, sad or irritable, I slept through the night, and my body began to heal.  I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining, the possibilities in my life.

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Even the President takes time to laugh…

Colleagues and friends looked at me strange after I disclosed, thinking I put my head in the sand, away from the world or lived in woo-woo land. I didn’t put my head in the sand but I did disconnect from taking in all the doom and gloom, the violence, abuse and neglect that permeates the news, many people’s experiences and the world in general.

I recommended and still recommend unplugging from stress as homework to clients. However, clients are also hesitant to do this as homework, even though they want to change their lives and experience less stress.  They often think, “How can something I see online or TV, or the conversations I have with others impact my sadness or depression?”  There is often resistance for various of reasons,

  1. It’s ‘too simple.’
  2. It’s work. Some say they want change but don’t really want to do the work.
  3. It disrupts their life in a different way, meaning it changes their life in some way.
  4. They’re stuck in their negative frame of thinking.

We are taught to believe that ‘it can’t be this simple,” but it can.

For the person who has difficulty with seeing the positive in self, life, or your environment, begin with laughter.  Laughter is contagious, it lifts your mood, helps you forget just for a moment about what’s ailing you. Laughter decreases your stress hormones and increases your feel-good chemical hormones, thereby increasing your immune system.

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For a 1 week: Shut off the news, watch only things that make you laugh or feel good. Engage in conversations that are positive.  If you find this difficult to do without hurting others’ feelings, take some alone time away from the situation or people involved if you can.  Notice what happens. Notice what happens if you find it difficult to do. Do you automatically reach for something negative, that will induce negative feelings and stress in you such as judgement, scorn, sadness, anger, apathy, or overwhelm?

I’d love to know how it goes, if you’re willing to share.

 

I love the woo-woo with a science eye.

 

Touch as Food

images-6Can you recall a time as a child when your mom/dad cradled or held you?  How about if mom/dad touched your forehead to determine if you were really telling the truth about feeling sick enough to stay home from school?  What about when you cried? Or were elated and excited about something?

Touch is the most important element in development and nourishment for life itself.  I know, some may be thinking, “Wrong! We can’t survive without food, or we’ll die.”  That’s also true.  There have been various studies on the power of touch on infants and development.  One troubling study involving infant monkeys that were fed food but touch was withheld.  The result: they withered and died. The video was and is heartbreaking, extremely painful to watch and I wouldn’t recommend it as it’s basically animal cruelty in the name of science.  Yes, all beings need food, but touch is the elixir of life.

Touch is such a powerful healing tool, but our world, especially as adults, lose that element.  As adults, we are often much more focused on work, keeping our lives and family afloat that we often forgo touch.  We get caught up in the daily grind of living and we think touch is expendable.  It’s not.  We may have spouses and partners, accessibility to touch within our grasp, but we still forego it.  Unfortunately, many children and adults don’t get touched enough or at all, by no choice of their own.  One may have grown up in a family system where “Hugs, physical nurturing and I love you’s’ were sparse if not rare, so the outward expression of love through touch may be uncomfortable.

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Touch and physical nurturing are imperative to our growth and development as children and it doesn’t stop being important just because we grow up.  Often times, people think that only the elderly suffer lack of touch, but that isn’t so.  The elderly population may be the largest population, because we are a consumer-throw-away culture of anything or anyone that gets too worn and old. However, in addition to the elderly population, lack of touch impacts children, singles, couples and the closest of long time married couples.  Couples will often report a lack of touch or sustained (intimate) eye contact with their partner.  Even the closest relationship can be devoid of hugs, hand holding or sustained eye contact, just because.

Let me be clear, the touch I’m speaking about is safe, kind and loving. Intimate touch where you connect with another in a non sexual way.  Sexual touch has many benefits, closely linked to the benefits of non sexual touch.  However, sex can often be confused and expressed as the only touch resource.

When I work with clients, using energy healing such as Reiki and cranio-sacral, I have noticed that by just holding the clients head, or placing a hand on the forehead often elicits feelings of love and sadness in addition to relaxation.  The client often remembers nurturing touch, yet realizes how much that doesn’t happen in their life presently, leading to a feeling of sadness and longing.  We are so much in our heads, our minds never stopping to the point that we negate our bodies.  I have found in my experiences that a whole session can be based around cradling the clients cranium.

There are various reasons why touch is such powerful healing tool.

  • Being touched, such as hand holding, being held, or hugged can mimic a time when you were a child being lovingly touched by your parent or caregiver.
  • Because of the previously mentioned, touch helps yourself and another to regulate your emotions.  For example, if you’re feeling sad, angry, or fearful, a touch of hand or a hug can calm you down by calming your nervous system.  You can do this for another too.
  • The body, your body, holds memories of experiences in your life that are remembered (stored) on a conscious and subconscious (body) level.  Past experiences that you think don’t currently matter or impact you, actually do.   Working through the subconscious through touch allows the deep memories and experiences that may have no language to surface.  This can assist you in becoming aware of and releasing old emotions and beliefs.
  • If you have experienced abuse (physical/sexual) or neglect (haven’t been physically/emotionally nurtured as a child), touch can help you to become re-acquainted or know what healthy nurturing touch is and what it feels like.   People who have been sexually abused can become highly sexualized and equate most touch as sexual.  Furthermore, the individual’s identity is often wrapped up in sexualization of self and others.
  • Touch build’s intimacy and trust between partners as well as parents and children and friends.
  • Touch is imperative to thriving child development.  Touch helps the brain and body to develop. Without touch for the child, the brain can atrophy in certain areas and make brain development (emotional intelligence and cognitive development) more difficult.  Lack of touch can also greatly affect a child’s immune system decreasing their physical health.

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Touch is food. Food for the mind, Food for the Body and Food for the Soul.

Whether you’re single or in relationship, recall how often you get touched in a way that feeds your depth, feeds your soul, or makes you feel loved as you are.

Mantra:

7 Hugs a day for a healthy heart.  The number is negotiable.

Exercise:

Ask someone close to you, parent, child, partner, friend for a hug.  They most likely need one too.

 

Your Stress Set Point

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You may have heard of  a ‘weight loss set point,’ in which the theory suggests that a person has a certain set weight point that their body likes to be regardless of how much weight lost.  But, are you familiar with the stress set point?  I think the focus on a person’s ‘set weight point’ is actually the ‘stress set point’ of the person, considering stress is often  the culprit for gaining and losing weight.  However, weight has been easier to study, simply because there is a tangible and finite result to measure.  Stress is not.  Stress is ambiguous, sneaky, encompassing and often, we don’t know we’re under stress until something isn’t working or reached a breaking point.

Everyone has a stress set point, and this set point is basically the level of stress that your nervous system is used to, regardless if your stress level is wreaking havoc on your body and overall well-being.

Why is knowing your stress set point important? Simple, it will affect your mental, emotional and physical health and your relationship(s).

A person’s stress set point will often tell me (and you) 3 things:
1. Your stress set point will tell me your level of intensity.
2. It will tell me how comfortable or used to this intensity or chaos you are.
3. Your stress set point (and level of intensity) will tell me whether there’s a possible addiction or an addictive personality.

How does this stress set point get established?
Well, your stress set point becomes established by the stressful or traumatic experiences you have in life. The experiences can happen in childhood and or adulthood. There are various elements to this such as stress hormones and intensity level, but I will explain this simply.  Below is a picture of a Temperature thermostat model with zero (0) being calm with the least amount of stress to the nervous system and 10 being the highest amount of stress to your nervous system.

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Let’s say you’re born and your nervous system starts at 0 (zero) with little to no cortisol (stress hormone) flooding your system because your family environment is calm and all of your physical and emotional infant/toddler needs are met. Then as you grow older and move through life, you experience a stressful event(s) such as consistent neglect, beatings, being bullied or constant state of perfectionistic family expectations. These are only a few stressful/traumatic examples that children can go through. With each stressful experience, your nervous system becomes flooded with stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), increasing your stress set point (tolerance level) up to, let’s say a 6 or higher. At this level, your body becomes accustomed to being flooded with stress hormones.

I’ve given you an example that included experiences in childhood, but as you know, stressful and traumatic experiences also happen in adulthood. This can mean that if your stress set point was a 6 during childhood, and you further experience a major or multiple stressful experiences in adulthood, then the cycle begins again increasing your stress set point (tolerance).

However, when your body has consistent time to decompress and reduce its stress level from a 6+ to a 4 or less, you most likely will feel uncomfortable as if something is wrong and subconsciously create a stressful situation to increase the amount of stress hormones flooding your body, bringing your stress set point back up to a level 6.  This can create a need for intensity by seeking out stressful experiences to induce stress hormones flooding your system.  The higher your stress set point, the higher your intensity level.  You need intensity to keep feeding your stress level.  This is a way for your body to become ‘addicted’ to the flood of stress hormones, even if you are sick and tired of feeling stressed, and for the addictive personality this can feel the most comfortable.

I say ‘addicted,’ because like anything your body experiences, you can create a tolerance level, just like you can with drugs and alcohol. You may begin with using substances casually, yet you like the feeling it gives you, then you begin to use more or more often building a tolerance level for that drug. Over time, you need more of the drug/chemical (stress hormone/intensity) to get the same feeling as before, but often leaves you feeling worse.

Intensity can come in the form of high stress jobs, sports, extreme sports, multiple partners (affairs), intense or chaotic relationships and chaos in general. Just a few examples.  Seeking intensity (or your stress set point) is a means to feel ‘normal’ by inducing stress into your system and can also be a set up for addiction to take place.

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The good news: Your stress set point, like your weight set point can be changed. The bad news: it takes work. I know, fun times.  Consistency is the name of the game. With consistent ‘work’ at reducing your stress and intensity level to  calm your nervous system, your set point can be lowered which is the place where healing, flow and creativity happen.  Learning your stress set point will help you gain awareness into patterns and behaviors in your life (Do you have an addiction or addictive personality?), your relationship dynamics (Do you seek out or create chaotic or intense relationships?), and your health (Is your health impacted in any way or do you seek out substances to quell?).  Awareness allows for choice in how you want to live.  Oh, and I almost forgot,  a natural by-product of reduced stress is weight loss.