Humor as a coping strategy

Have you ever found yourself laughing at a stressful or unfortunate event? While mental illness is not funny, sometimes using humor as a coping strategy can be helpful. 

Injecting some humor into a stressful situation can help shift our perspective and regulate our emotions. Stress is an inevitable part of life and sometimes we need to shake up our thought process in order to cope, especially when the stress is caused by something out of our control. 

Research has shown that laughter can have physical and psychological benefits. Laughter can reduce pain, improve sleep, and boost immunity. And while it’s not always easy to find humor when you’re feeling down, there are ways you can try to initiate humor and laughing. 

Laughter Yoga

Laughter yoga is a program developed by Dr. Madan Kataria that involves techniques to encourage participants to laugh without the need for humorous jokes or comedies to watch. The practice combines laughter exercises with breathing techniques and is based on the idea that our brain doesn’t know the difference between intentionally and spontaneous laughing. And, as stated on their website, “we get the same physiological and psychological benefits.  

  • Learn the Art of Laughing for No Reason: Anyone can laugh for no reason without relying on humor, jokes or comedy and one can feel the benefits on the very first session! It’s easy. 
  • Real and Contagious Laughter: We initiate laughter as a body exercise in a group and with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it quickly turns into real and contagious laughter. 
  • Science of Breathing: According to the yogic concept of breathing, your exhalation should be longer than your inhalation so that you can get rid of stale air from your lungs. Laughter as a form of exercise is a great way to exhale longer.“

Laughing and learning

Talking about mental illness can be uncomfortable and difficult for some people. When someone breaks their arm, they get a cast with a cool color and everyone wants to know the story. However, when someone has an anxiety attack most of the time people don’t know how to react or respond. Sometimes, humor can help us learn about the situation. Comedian Ruby Wax asks this question in her 2012 TED Talk, What’s So Funny About Mental Illness, “how come when people have mental damage, it's always an active imagination? How come every other organ in your body can get sick and you get sympathy, except the brain?”. I think we can all learn from her presentation that having the conversation about mental illness will only help us to understand it more, and when we understand it more we can lose the stigma of talking about mental illness. 

Try This

Close your eyes and think about a memory that makes you laugh. Or, Watch videos, movies, or a television series that really makes you laugh. Sometimes, the disruption of laughter to our anxiety and stress is a quick way to reframe our situation and mood

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