Depression can be a laughing matter

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Yes, there is such a thing as laugh therapy – and it works.

While it might seem odd or even cruel to joke about depression, there is nothing wrong with finding commonality through humor when discussing experiences or symptoms. After all, a lot of humor is based in painful and embarrassing episodes of our lives.

“Learning to tell jokes is one way to rediscover your sense of humor,” explained Katie Valentino, licensed clinical social worker in Bloomingdale, Ill.

“Humor is a healthy defense mechanism that allows a person with depression to master an unpleasant situation so [that he or] she can gain control and begin to recover,” said Joseph Hullett, MD, San Juan Capistrano psychiatrist.

Why does it work?

Humor humanizes depression. Humor lifts misconceptions and sends the message that this is a common and even bonding experience among humankind.

Humor lightens the mood. Laughing increases blood flow to the brain as well as dopamine and endorphins. These brain chemicals counter cortisol and are involved in relieving depression.

Humor is a coping skill. “Revisiting a negative experience, seeing the humorous side and then humanizing it in a funny way for others can help you cope with your depression,” noted Hullett.

Humor lessens the stigma of depression. “When someone tells a humorous version of one of the worst points of their life, and that story or joke met with laughter and raves they feel differently about themselves,” said Canadian therapist and comedian David Granirer, founder of Stand Up for Mental Health, a program that teaches people with mental illnesses to perform stand-up. Shameful episodes can become moments of strength when other people laugh and acknowledge the experience.

Humor boosts self-esteem. When you make a person laugh, you succeed at a goal. You become the center of attention because you earned it through a thoughtful skill. Words, cadence, pauses, the eye-roll – all of it factors into the laugh, not just the material. A successful and funny story, whether on stage or at the water cooler, makes you feel good about yourself and liked by others. For a person dealing with depression, that is no laughing matter.

Source: Lifescript’s Depression Center, NIMH


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