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Three ways in which humour can support our mental health #mhaw17

This blog series in in honour of Mental Health Awareness Week; this year their theme is on how we can thrive instead of simply surviving, and how so many factors intefere with our ability to enjoy a rich and full life. In this, the third post, I'm focusing on the need for humour, and how embracing humour can support good mental and emotional health.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.
— Dr Maya Angelou
 

 

Have you ever considered why sitcoms use gag tracks? They do so because laughter is contagious; when those around us are laughing, it's very difficult to hold ourselves back from joining in. Laughing freely with others can be liberating, as it releases our inhibitions. Laughter connects us, allowing us to communicate without facade, and protecting against conflict, disagreement and anger. Finding common ground strengthens our bond with those around us, and bonding with others positively reduces our likelihood of depression, anxiety, and anger.

HUMOUR RELAXES US

Literally, it relaxes our bodies. A full, deep laugh relaxes our muscles and releases tension held in our bodies, with positive effects for up to forty five minutes. Laughter balances our nervous system, floods our body with happy-feeling endorphins, boosts our immune system and decreases pain levels. In other words, consider a good dose of laughter as your opportunity to recalibrate your system.

HUMOUR GROUNDS US

The ability to laugh at ourselves is much needed, and often lacking; put simply, we often take ourselves far too seriously. Often, this is as a way to protect ourselves - when our sense of self is fragile, allowing ourselves to laugh at ourselves can feel too raw, and too exposing. However, growing our ability to laugh at ourselves help to develop our resilience, leading to greater flexibility and ability to adapt. When we have a good sense of self, and feel comfortable with who we are, a small joke at our own expense feels less threatening and exposing, and our tolerance levels for our own imperfections grow. Greater tolerance leads to a more robust ability to withstand conflict and problems, and a greater ability to adapt to life's challenges.

A TIP TO HARNESS YOUR HUMOUR TO IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

Regular opportunities to laugh are your way to reset your system, so prioritise opportunities to do so. We can, understandably, become myopic, when faced with the demands of the modern world; we focus on the daily tasks, struggles, chores, work and responsibility. When we're feeling low, angry, stressed or sad, it can be difficult to feel like laughing. But any kind of laughter helps; laughing in a group, or laughing on your own, and even simulated laughter.

Build in plenty of different ways of laughing into your day. If you hear a group of people laughing at work, seek them out and join in the fun. Download a funny podcast to listen to on the commute. Call a funny friend and chat.. Head to a comedy club with your partner, some friends or colleagues. Watch some stand up, funny YouTube videos, or your favourite funny film. Start a Funny Book Club!

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this post, and think that counselling would help, do please contact me. For more details, or to arrange a free initial consultation, call me on 07419 190930 or hello@concentriccounselling.com.