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.
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.
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,
- It’s ‘too simple.’
- It’s work. Some say they want change but don’t really want to do the work.
- It disrupts their life in a different way, meaning it changes their life in some way.
- 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.
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.