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Humour is Dangerous to Stress

Manage chronic stress with humour – a smile, a giggle, a hearty laughter!

20258594_xl“Help, I’m sooo stressed out!” “Life is no fun anymore!” These phrases sound familiar to us, right?

We all suffer from stress and know how it feels. It destroys our sense of happiness and aliveness and sets us up for a negative mood as daily problems accumulate. Stress has become an unpredictable, even life threatening companion, which is why we sometimes call it the “silent killer!”

Chronic stress, (also known as distress) is long-term, constant unrelenting strain on the body and mind. High levels of stressful events, such as dysfunctional marriages, relationship conflicts, job-related deadlines and relentless demands, unemployment, financial problems, boredom, and sickness or death of a loved one often show drastic negative effects on our mental and physical health. Even watching the daily 30 minutes of TV news coverage of heinous crimes and terrible accidents or disasters can contribute to our stress hormone levels soaring, and thus increase our physical, emotional and mental pressure day by day. Yes, stress has become one of the most serious health issues of our times.

A distressed client says to Counsellor: “You mentioned the typical symptoms of stress are eating too much, impulse shopping, no physical activities and watching TV too much. Are you kidding? That’s my idea of a perfect day!”

Beat Stress and Take Control of your Health

There are many ways to tackle stress, for example jogging, listening to music, meditating, shopping, etc. However, one of the fastest and most effective ways to beat stress is applying a sense of humour. The ability to respond with humour – a smile, a giggle, a hearty laughter – is an important and valuable coping skill and can sometimes save us in our darkest moments.

Now let me ask you this question: Why is it the best medicine? Here’s the answer: Because it is free of charge!

Indeed, this powerful antidote to stress does not cost anything! It is freely available at any time, which is good news to all of us! However, the proper answer as to ‘why it is the best medicine’ is that there is strong evidence that humour and laughter enhance our psychological health and relieve pain.

The Magic Health Effects of Humour

Humour is the chocolate for our brains – both (chocolate and humour) release a cocktail of ‘happy hormones’, particularly endorphins, which make us feel good.

There is no denying that we often stockpile negative emotions, such as anger, sadness and fear, rather than expressing them. Humour is one of our best stress busters (and we do not mean black, cynical, hostile and excessively self-disparaging humour), which provides an excellent way for these emotions to be harmlessly released, often through laughter, jokes or witty remarks. Ultimately, a good sense of humour decreases our blood pressure, lifts our depression and boosts our immune system. As an end product, it increases our positive feelings, our well-being, and leads to greater happiness.

My client, a widow who suffers from depression and anxiety, revealed during the counselling session that she felt responsible for the recent death of her husband, caused by a heart attack.

“I should have not had that heated argument with him two days before his death,” she said. “It was all my fault. I was really mean to him. I’m responsible for his death.” She didn’t stop accusing herself of being the reason for his death, and thus felt terribly guilty and depressed.

Close to the end of the therapy session I said to her in a very serious manner, “After carefully considering all circumstances, I now truly believe that you are responsible for the death of your husband! Yes, you actually committed a serious crime – you killed your husband! Therefore, I have to report you to the police.”

At first she looked shocked and puzzled. Then she burst into a loud healthy belly laughter, discovering how ridiculous the thought was that her behavior had led to her husband’s natural death. This episode makes it very obvious that a sense of humour can easily change and improve our state of mind.

Get your Sense of Humour Back

The famous comedian Bill Cosby once said, “If you can find humour in anything, you can survive it!” Many individuals who participate in my humour seminars tell me, “You know I used to laugh a lot and I used to have a great sense of humour, but with all that stress and pressure in my life – I totally lost it!

However, we all can re-learn to spot some humour in our daily difficulties and develop a more humorous attitude towards ourselves and the environment, for example, through cognitive behaviour therapy or through some tips and skills.

With a good sense of humour, we are able to shift perspective on a stressful situation, reappraising it from a new and less threatening point of view, as the example of an American paraplegic demonstrates.  He said about his disability: “There is an advantage to being in a wheelchair, though. Wherever you go you have a seat!” As a consequence of this hilarious perception, the situation becomes less stressful and more manageable for him. In fact, it gives him strength to get through adverse situations and to regain control over his life.

If we can smile and joke without becoming the “company joker”, or laugh about our problems, we can also cope with threatening, harmful distressing situations in our lives. In addition, our friendly joking can encourage others during times of distress to see the positive aspects of their miserable situations. With a good sense of humour we are able to express underlying feelings of acceptance and affection even in the midst of an argument with our spouses, friends or colleagues at work!

There is no doubt a healthy sense of humour is an important component of overall mental health – and of a well functioning relationship!

My advice: Distract and distress yourself with humour and laughter! What’s the recommended daily dosage? As often as you can!

 

suit nose march 2010Dr Wolff von Auer, SAC-registered Counsellor & Certified Hypnotherapist, Author, and Ex-Senior Banker, is a well-known, passionate and acknowledged keynote speaker-cum-trainer. He is known for his Mental Wellbeing Workshops & Humorous Talks. He is also a Service Provider to the Health Promotion Board. For more information, visit www.CHH.com.sg.

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Posted by ezyhealth on Feb 13 2014. Filed under Mental Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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