Being depressed is far from funny, it can feel like the joke is on you in fact. It is hard and everything has a dark grey and heavy feeling to it. The light has gone from your eyes and finding joy in even the smallest of things is so very hard but maybe it’s entirely possible to find respite in the power of laughter and comedy. In this blog post, I discuss why laughing and actively spending time laughing and smiling can improve your mental health.
Laughter offers a relief
When you laugh at something you can’t feel pain at the same time as a positive feeling, it is literally impossible. Try it now, sit there for just 30 seconds with a smile on your face, a proper smile , ear to ear and see if you still feel as depressed as before.
Laughter offers you respite from feeling negative emotions such as depression, fear and anger that are all quite bad for your health if experienced for extended lengths of time. This idea of respite is known as the relief theory often used in films when a scene may be tense, for example, Rush Hour is often action packed with tense moments but adds humour to release the feelings of tension and stress.
The relief theory is the basis for a device movie-makers have used effectively for a long time. In action films or thrillers where tension is high, the director uses comic relief at just the right times. He builds up the tension or suspense as much as possible and then breaks it down slightly with a side comment, enabling the viewer to relieve himself of pent-up emotion…As we try to cope with two sets of emotions and thoughts, we need a release and laughter is the way of cleansing our system of the built-up tension and incongruity.
If we consider the above statement in a day to day life experience by adding humour to every situation we encounter and taking a different stance and viewpoint on things that are dragging us down and seemingly impossible to see the positive side by looking at the situation in a light hearted and funny way can help release pent up emotions.
Can reduce negative emotions such as stress and anger
laughter reduces levels of certain stress hormones. In doing this, laughter provides a safety valve that shuts off the flow of stress hormones and the fight-or-flight compounds that swing into action in our bodies when we experience stress, anger or hostility.
When depressed we can get all sorts of negative emotions and add stress anger and hostility to our minds which can seem impossible to shift these terrible moods, feelings and thoughts once they become a repeated process in your life but it is entirely possible to learn to change the way you think about things with time and practice.
The more we laugh the more we shut off the chemicals that cause the negative thoughts and feelings to engulf our every being. A short release of laughter and a smile can take away so much pain that is inside your mind.
Increases your power of recall and improves immune system
Not only can laughing take away feelings of depression but it can also improve the power of recall. When your mind is at ease it makes it easier to memorise important information and recall it at a later date.
It is also believed that laughing often helps your immune system work better. This is all to do with improved mental activity and brain waves that are called gamma frequencies.
Improves your sense of reward
When we are happy our brain releases a chemical called endorphins in our brain which beats the stress hormones down. It is believed this chemical release in the brain is four times stronger than the hormones that bring on stress and depression and thus the reason why laughing ‘may be the best medicine’ for curing depression.
The act of laughter — or simply enjoying some humor — increases endorphins, sending dopamine to the brain to provide a sense of pleasure and reward, Berk said.
Tips to add laughter into your life
- Figure out what makes you laugh and do it (or read it or watch it) more often.
- Surround yourself with funny people — be with them every chance you get.
- Develop your own sense of humor. Maybe even take a class to learn how to be a better comic — or at least, a better joke-teller at that next party. Be funny every chance you get — as long as it’s not at someone else’s expense!
Learn to take a lighter view of all situations
Practice laughing in your life on a regular basis, never take things too seriously, even when you want to be angry or sad or depressed, actively try to look at life through a funny or more light-hearted way.
It is possible to achieve this way of thinking through processes called CBT which helps you to actively choose to see the positive possibilities rather than the negative ones, add on the ability to see life through the funny side and you may find that you begin to change how you perceive your life when you become more light-hearted and choose not to get upset by things that may have in the past.
Conclusion, can laughter heal your depression?
Laughter, although extremely rewarding, is unlikely to heal depression on its own. It is definitely a powerful tool that can work alongside other methods of healing and can guarantee to lift your mood but sometimes when you are depressed it can be hard to find the energy to laugh.
Saying this I believe that taking time to watch a comedy or comedian is highly therapeutic as it stimulates your brain and if you laugh, releases endorphins (happy hormones ) and boosts serotonin levels up to your brain blocking the stress hormones that cause depression.
I know it’s not easy to laugh, particularly after a string of bad luck ( I’ve been there, many bad things happening all at the same time ) but if you pay attention to how you feel when you laugh you will notice that you don’t feel as down or depressed as before if only for a short period of time. If you continue making time to laugh it will begin to help change the way you think and has the added benefit of being natural.
Try to make a small amount of time to laugh, laugh at yourself and your situation and try to begin to see the lighter side of life. Nothing is as terrible as it may seem with a lighter heart. To finish , here is a video of one of my favourite comedians of all time.