Anxiety isn’t funny. It is, instead, rather humorless. When my head pounds and spins, when my chest constricts and spasms in a fit of coughing, when I feel worried and afraid for reasons too vague to wrap my mind around and simultaneously too specific to pull my mind out of, the last thing I feel like doing is laughing. Nothing seems remotely funny. Finding humor can be difficult when we live with anxiety; however, if we can begin to look for our laughter, we can find that humor can be a great coping skill.
Researchers are discovering that laughter has many benefits. Among the ways laughter lifts us is by increasing our overall well-being and boosting our mental health.
Laughter Can Reduce AnxietyWhen we live with anxiety day in and day out or are in the throes of a panic attack, our stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine, pulse through us. As a result, we remain tense, coiled for action, and anxious.
Although there are no quick fixes for anything in life, remarkably, a good laugh can instantly begin to reduce these nasty stress hormones that are intertwined with anxiety. Laughter gets to work immediately, and a regular “diet” of laughter continues to decrease anxiety over time.
How is it that laughter can reduce anxiety when anxiety is no laughing matter? The act of laughing is similar to deep breathing in its ability to increase the oxygen in our bodies. Coupled with reducing stress hormones, the increased oxygen in the body helps lead to muscle relaxation. All of this helps reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety.
With Laughter Comes a Different, Less Anxious, OutlookLaughing feels good. It’s addictive; we keep wanting more. When we laugh regularly, our anxiety begins to decrease.
When we embrace humor and give ourselves a chance to be a little bit lighter for even a short while each day, we shift our focus. Rather than seeing the world within and without as a worrisome place, we start to see it as a good, safe, perhaps even fun, place. We start to see beyond the anxiety. Sure, the anxiety lingers for a while, but every time we can laugh we loosen its stronghold.
Introducing intentional laughter into our lives decreases stress hormones. Breathing deeply during the act of laughing relaxes muscles. Thinking about something funny shifts our focus to new things. Embracing humor regularly helps our outlook become more positive. Humor and laughter diminish anxiety.
The difficulty with this lies not so much in believing what researchers are reporting but in applying it. “How can I possibly laugh when my anxiety is so strong all the time?” is a common question. I invite you to tune into the video for a few suggestions to get you started.