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Cooling Stress Tips: Why Humor Can Improve Your Mental Health

By Judi Light Hopson Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Judi Light Hopson reports, "Humor affects brain chemistry much like a drug. It boosts certain chemicals that improve your moods. This, in turn, elevates your ability to focus and function."

Tribune

Are you feeling sad and confused these days? Maybe your job or marriage isn't going well. Or, maybe relatives or friends are living with you during the pandemic.

If so, try to incorporate humor into your life every day. It can soften the blows of unavoidable stress and save your sanity.

Humor affects brain chemistry much like a drug. It boosts certain chemicals that improve your moods. This, in turn, elevates your ability to focus and function.

We've all heard that laughter is the best medicine. But, how do you laugh when your life is full of stress? Where do you find humor when the news is so serious?

Here's the way it works: Humor can sometimes show up spontaneously, but we usually have to go looking for it. And sometimes, we have to doggedly seek it via movies and other entertainment.

"I believe we all have to be on the lookout for something funny," says a surgeon we'll call Dr. Hall. "A couple of years ago, I had four patients die the same day. I swear, I didn't smile for six months. I was frozen in depression."

Dr. Hall says he found some laughter when his grandkids stayed at his house for a week. Watching the children play brought a lot of smiles and good feelings.

"I think it's impossible to remain sad if you sit back and watch a group of small children interact," says Dr. Hall. "They will light up your spirit like nothing else can. And, I think it helps to watch at least one funny movie every week."

"Some people practice being funny, and they get really good at lifting the mood of everyone around them," says a high school music teacher we'll call Cheryl. "People who can magically get a spontaneous chuckle out of others can help reduce a lot of stress."

Cheryl says she was in a sour mood a couple of years ago when one of her best students failed to get a music scholarship. We'll call this student Heather.

"It was Heather who got me smiling again," says Cheryl. "She'd heard an old song titled 'I don't know whether to kill myself or go bowling.' She told me that she'd pick me up at my house on Friday night. We were going bowling! We laughed our heads off that night. Finally, she got a great scholarship that beat the first one."

Humor is a cushion that prevents the crushing blows of life from putting out our light. It balances our ups and downs, guarantees we'll have a little joy in a given day, and keeps our inner strength from crumbling.

"When we take ourselves too seriously, we become our own worst enemy," says a psychologist we'll call John. "When we judge ourselves too harshly, our sense of humor disappears. Then, we start saying ugly things to ourselves about our abilities and our vision of the future. Too much of this will put anyone in a low, depressed state."

John insists that helping his clients understand the nature of humor is a good way to prevent suicide. He believes humor puts the "hope" back into that dark place called "hopelessness."

"I tell some of my own stories of personal mistakes to my clients," says John. "I let them know that laughter helps us forgive ourselves for our own shortcomings. And believe me, we all have them. Humor overrides the emptiness we can feel. It puts us back in control." ___ (Judi Light Hopson is author of the stress management book, "Cooling Stress Tips." She is also executive director of USA Wellness Cafe at www.usawellnesscafe.org) ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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