This is a book excerpt from The Upside of Down. To read more about how Tamra Mercieca overcame depression the natural way, visit: www.theupsideofdown.com.au
Learning to laugh can be hard, especially for those who suffer from depression. The problem is, people get so bogged down in the serious aspects of living, they lose the carefree attitude we had as kids, and stop laughing, which is a real shame, given the therapeutic benefits.
Despite the huge increase in the standard of living, the world is getting more and more serious. According to a study by German psychologist Michael Titze, in the 1950s people laughed for eighteen minutes a day, but today we laugh no more than six minutes a day. Children can laugh up to four hundred times in a day, but by the time we reach adulthood, that frequency drops to only fifteen times a day.
This is a real worry. Researchers are telling us that laughter has a positive impact on our physical and mental wellbeing, yet in today’s high-pressure competitive world, our laughter is disappearing fast. The hearty humor of thirty years ago no longer stirs even the faintest of smiles today.
How long is it since you had a belly laugh, when you laughed so hard you had tears running down your face? Australians were once known as an irreverent lot who made a joke of most things and did not take life too seriously. Perhaps that was part of our Irish heritage. In recent years, you may find it difficult to meet a person who can remember their last good gut-wrenching laugh.
Today, people are sad and lonely. The world is sinking into deep depression due to isolation and individualism. According to some sources, depression is growing at a fast rate and is almost the number one sickness in the world. Suicide rates are high in Finland and Switzerland and many other affluent countries.
Laughter is a powerful antidote for depression.It creates positive emotions that flow through the body. When we laugh we feel good, release stress, fill our body with all those happy chemicals. Laughter helps us make light of a difficult situation. As you begin to increase the laughter you will start to feel healthier and more relaxed.
Physically, laughter not only provides a massage for the facial muscles, the diaphragm and abdomen, but some have described it as internal jogging. Dr William Fry from Stanford University in the United States, claims one minute of laughter is the equivalent of ten minutes on a rowing machine.
All of us feel the magic power of laugher after we have a good belly laugh. Each time we laugh we feel better, our step becomes a little bouncier, and we feel closer to whoever we laughed with. The world seems brighter and friendlier, and we are able to approach life more positively
Laughing and crying are the only healthy convulsions (other than sneezing and orgasms) that humans experience. Perhaps they are our reward for the more complex burdens we carry. Polar opposites, they share the same stress-relieving mission. Laughter makes us feel better by rising above, almost detaching from, that which might otherwise disturb us.
You are never too old to laugh. It is one of the few infectious things that cannot make you sick. So if laughter is so good for you, why leave it to chance?
Laughter really is the best medicine
Over the past two decades extensive research has shown that laughter has a positive impact on various systems of the body. It helps remove the negative effects of stress, which is the number one killer today. Depression is among more than severity illnesses that are stress-related.
When we laugh, especially when we really let ourselves go, our endocrine system releases endorphins and encephalins in the brain.These substances reduce feelings of stress, relax the body and leave behind a sense of euphoria. A good bout of laughter also reduces the levels of stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol.
Laughter lets in oxygen, which feeds the blood cells and the brain. It produces many feel-good chemicals and helps manage chronic pain and illness. A good belly laugh helps clean out all the cobwebs of stress that choke up the body, leaving you feeling lighter and refreshed.
It has been scientifically proved that laughter elevates mood, brings hope, enhances communication and is the master key for maintaining good health. Scientists are convinced that laughter has both preventive and therapeutic value, which is why it not only helps you out of your depression, but helps prevent a relapse of the illness.
Medical research shows that even if you pretend to laugh or act happy, your body produces happy chemicals. According to the principles of NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP), there is hardly any difference between thinking about doing something and actually doing it. Therefore whatever may be the source of laughter, it leads to the same set of physiological changes in the body.
Laughing has also been found to shorten recovery time after illness, by strengthening the immune system. This is a real bonus, given that depression hacks away at the immune system, making us more prone to other diseases and illnesses. People who laugh often, almost never get a cough, cold or flu.
One reason for all these benefits is that laughter puts people in a positive frame of mind and gradually turns them into positive thinkers. One main problem with people who suffer from depression is their constant negative thinking patterns.
Laughter has benefited many people on heavy anti-depressants. With laughter therapy, those included in the study were able to get better sleep and reduce their depression. Even people with suicidal tendencies were able to start living their lives with more hope.
Hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions now take advantage of humour’s therapeutic potential to promote recovery from disease. Increasing your daily ration of laughs and chuckles can be as important as taking your daily nutritional supplements in keeping your mind and body functioning their best.
Ways to laugh
- Learn to laugh at ridiculous people instead of allowing them to upset you
- Laugh at ridiculous situations instead of letting them stress you
- Come up with ways of making customers or your family laugh
- Have a ‘joke a day’ that you share with people around you
- Hang out with children – they laugh more
- Put on a comedy DVD or even better, go and see a stand-up comedian
Get into the habit of laughing for five minutes every morning before you leave the house.