Nov 21, 2022 — Of the myriad of healthy recipes, perhaps none are more important than laughter. In fact, laughter ranks fairly high in medicine’s toolbox, with Research Which indicates that it leads to a variety of benefits ranging from reduced stress and improved breathing to providing an extra boost to the body’s immune system and increasing pain tolerance.
But one of the most important benefits of laughter may be its positive effects on mental health and the ability to deal with many of life’s ups and downs, especially as we get older. The challenge is to keep the muscles pumped and ready.
“Research shows that around age 23, our tendency to laugh begins to evaporate, and we have more responsibilities—college graduation, professional jobs, promotions, variable-rate mortgages, things like that,” says Paul Osenkop, a strategic humorist. and past president of the Applied and Therapeutic Humor Society. “We really don’t get those laughs back until we’re in our 70s.”
But 50 odd years seems like a very long time to recapture one of life’s most precious gifts, which is why the “use it or lose it” principle applies like every muscle.
“Like all other mindfulness and positive psychology techniques, it takes practice, intention, and vulnerability,” says Mallory Desalle, director of SBIRT Implementation and Motivational Interviewing Training at Indiana University at Bloomington and a licensed mental health professional and certified humorist.
“The premise is that at any given time, we can look at our lives as a drama or a comedy. The more we immerse ourselves in humor and really start learning how to use and experience humor—not by accident but by choice—we begin to prime the pump for positivity in our lives,” she says. Says.
Not all laughs are equal
The first step to harnessing the power of laughter is to understand the language of laughter.
Laughter can be self-inflicted At will without a funny or funny prompt.
Laughter can be stimulated by physical contact (such as tickling), or induced by medication (such as laughing gas or nitrous oxide during dental procedures).
Laughter can also be caused by changes in the body’s nervous system or by mental health conditions. This form of laughter is called pathological Laughter.
But in terms of health and well-being, the most important kind of laughter is the kind people are familiar with the most, which according to 2021 review, is real or spontaneous laughter. This is the type of laughter caused by an external stimulus such as a funny joke or caused by positive emotions.
It can also be energized through humor exercises, and is the perfect setting for therapeutic humorists like DeSalle and her practice partner Lodge McCammon, PhD, educator, therapeutic humorist, and musician. Osincup also uses humor exercises in his workshops.
Retraining the humor muscle
Before showing interest, let’s be clear: The point of these exercises is not to create a new generation of comedians or performers or to force someone to “cheer up.”
Instead, DeSalle and McCammon use absurdity training in their work with clients, an approach that invites participants to “mess” with their own discomfort so that they can reframe unpleasant experiences, thereby getting a brief respite from negative emotions and small annoyances or challenges.
The team recently ran a month-long series of exercises on a community Facebook page they called Humor Games. Over the course of 4 weeks, participants were shown a prompt prompt focusing on humor and its benefits, and then given directions on the prompt. For example:
fill the gaps: Don’t be part of the problem. is being [fill in the blank].
An exercise like this is a warm-up that helps people slowly awaken the relaxed muscles of humor, DeSalle explains. While the common response may be The solutionthe exercise response should be a caricature of reality and something unexpectedly silly, like:
Don’t be part of the problem. is being Plain troublemakers.
Over the course of each day, McCammon says, participants were invited to post their responses and comments to others, and each week culminated in a Friday event (ie, funniest post) that would be shared on their own pages and with the group as a whole. Participants were also trained on how to create memes from the prompts.
“Over time they got more and more difficult, and for the last two weeks they were considered therapeutic exercises,” McCammon says. “Instead of asking the players to communicate something silly, we asked them to communicate something that was bothering them or something they were dealing with in a difficult life.”
Then, the participants were asked to reframe the thing that was challenging or unpleasant into something more humorous. For these claims in particular, humorists have used memes. For example:
Not to brag or anything, but I can [scratch a new car] Better than anyone I’ve met.
“Ultimately, we’re helping to find a faster solution – not only is it annoying but it’s also funny because [blank]DeSalle explains.
“They can learn to retrain their thoughts—to reframe them—instead of sitting around in discomfort and pain, which is what we tend to do as humans,” she says.
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