By david bowes
Living with a mood disorder doesn’t have to be all about intensive self-help and depth-psychotherapy. If we can tap into the present moment and create a bit of distance between ourselves, circumstance, and our moods, there is much to be grateful for and to enjoy. One great tool for creating a shift out of stress, feeling stuck, and pain (both physical and emotional) is LAUGHTER! And, if you stop to think about it .. there’s a lot of funny stuff out there.
Some of you may remember Norman Cousins (1915-1990), a celebrated writer who decided to treat his heart disease with massive doses of Vitamin C and laughter (often induced by watching humorous Marx Brothers films). He ended up living much longer than the doctors predicted .. and he laughed a lot in the process. Most of us have also seen Patch (Hunter) Adam’s true story of using humor to improve the quality of life for his patients. Drawing inspiration from Cousins, Patch Adams and more recently, Laughter Yoga, researchers have been looking into the benefits of actually practicing laughter since around 1960.
Among others, Psychologist and “humour-training specialist” Paul E McGhee, PhD has written extensively on the benefits of regularly practicing laughter and how it positively impacts your mood, immune system, pain symptoms, and heart health. You can laugh alone, laugh with another, or laugh with a group. In fact if you look up a video on Laughter Yoga, you’ll probably start to chuckle pretty soon. Laughter is contagious. (Laughter Yoga is basically a group of people who get together and laugh while making eye contact with one another and doing silly things – it’s pretty hilarious). That said, when it comes to practicing laughter, one can even begin by ‘faking it’ .. you’ll be surprised at how often this will lead to your busting out into the real thing.
So, here are some suggestions to get laughing on a regular basis:
- Practice smiling – the very act of smiling (even if it’s ‘forced’) can shift your mental state. Try it out …it works ! [Suggestion: try to smile with your eyes and your mouth].
- If you have internet access, get on YouTube and find some videos that make you laugh.
- Get a friend or partner to practice laughing with you. At first this may seem bizarre and forced, but in spite of, or (more likely) because of this, you’ll be surprised at how soon you may just start to really howl. You’ll be laughing at your companion laughing at you, laughing at them…
- Watch a funny movie or TV show.
- Check out a TEDMED talk on Laughter Yoga by its founder Dr. Madan Kataria (this video is both technical and practical).
- Go to a comedy club.
- Read the funny pages or check out your bookstore’s humor section.
- Seek out funny people.
- Share a good joke or a funny story – or ask someone else for a joke or about the funniest thing that’s happened to them recently.
- Host a game night with friends.
- Play with a pet.
- Go to a “laughter yoga” class – find a group near you.
- Goof around with children; and, break out your playful inner child in the process.
- Do something silly (e.g. try to dance like Elaine from Seinfeld)
- Make time for fun activities (e.g. bowling, miniature golfing, karaoke, twister, etc..)
I will attempt to close in the spirit of Dr. Zeus: You can laugh at me; I can laugh at you; we can laugh together until our faces turn blue. We can laugh if we try; we can laugh till we cry; we can even laugh at funny shapes in the sky. Laughter is good; laughter is fun; laughter helps everyone loosen up a ton..” So give it a shot and practice getting your chuckle on.