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Laughter Can Chase Away Anxiety

December 25, 2014 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

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 humor, we can find that laughter can be a great coping skill.

Laughter Reduces Anxiety

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.1

When 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.

Laughter has been shown to reduce anxiety, but when we're anxious, it can be hard to laugh. Here, tips for using laughter to get rid of anxiety.

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.

Laughter Delivers a Less Anxious Outlook

Laughing 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.

Sources

1 Mayo Clinic. Stress Management, page 2

Connect with Tanya on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, her books, and her website.

APA Reference
NCC, T. (2014, December 25). Laughter Can Chase Away Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/12/laughter-can-chase-away-anxiety



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

henry
says:
June, 11 2016 at 8:50 am
A smile a day goes a long way in keeping us from the doctor.
Gobinder
says:
May, 2 2016 at 2:16 am
I can only agree. I was (still am) anxious over the last 2 weeks. However, one particular evening I was travelling back from a wedding with my wife & we started to laugh out loud over a few things. It was so relaxing that when I got out of the car I felt a sense of relief and a shift of focus. All of a sudden the lightheaded feelings had gone. They may come back but at least I have a start.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 2 2016 at 12:12 pm
Hi Gobinder,
Thank you for sharing this. This will encourage others!
sherry
says:
December, 29 2014 at 11:49 am
"Among the ways laughter lifts us is by increasing....". This does not sound grammatical. "One of the ways..."?

But the author is right. Here in Europe we have laughing clubs... My father was a gag-writer and I'm sure he write jokes to forget his own depression.
nathan mayhew
says:
December, 25 2014 at 12:15 am
its so true!!i get super tense and stiff its so hard and takes so much energy to laugh or joke your feelings go completly away you never get that first love feeling in your bones again...its like a electric shock to my neck always weak and fatigue...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 25 2014 at 2:07 am
Hi Nathan,
Thank you for sharing your great description. I think many can easily relate!

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