The Power of Laughter on Mental Health
By: Tim De Pass
This past month I have been dissecting songs, TV shows, and novels that tell us something about our own mental health. I have focused on stories or lyrics that give credence to some of our deepest emotions. These stories have the ability to express the nuances of mental health while giving us a creative connection to our own thoughts and feelings. These TV shows, songs, and novels are valuable tools that push us to think of our mental health in new ways, while providing a comforting connection during periods of sorrow and isolation.
While these stories can be used to take an introspective look at ourselves and at the world around us, sometimes it is just as important to just forget about everything for a moment and laugh. Delving into the different pieces of art that I have discussed this past month can be emotionally exhausting. Taking the time to identify and explore our emotions and thoughts through different mediums of art is taxing. Engaging in that introspective behaviour is imperative for emotional growth, but do it too much and it can lead to unhealthy rumination patterns. So, for my last article of this month’s Art and Mental Health theme, I am going to focus on genuine, unadulterated comedy.
They say laughter is the best medicine. While that is not biologically true (I once watched Brooklyn 99 for 8 hours straight while I had the flu; my fever did not go away), laughter can have a significant impact on our mood. A study in South Korea found that Laughter Therapy significantly improved individuals' moods while they waited for radiation treatment (Kim et al., 2015). Laughing can truly improve our mood states. When I watch a comedic television show after a bad day, I notice a shift in my mood. There is a shift from feelings of stress and anxiety towards carefree relief. Experiences from the day are no longer drowned in feelings of frustration or embarrassment, but now have a perspective of comicality to them.
Finding the humour in awfully human moments, instead of ignominious rumination, can provide momentary relief from those feelings of shame and anxiety. Watching a TV show that makes us laugh forces a shift in our perception. This can be impactful in the healing process after experiencing an embarrassing moment. Being able to laugh something off can help with mental resiliency. Next time you have had a difficult day, try to distract yourself with something that makes you laugh. It may help in shifting your mindset from depressive torment to comedic relief, even if just for a moment.
Kim, S. H., Kook, J. R., Kwon, M., Son, M. H., Ahn, S. D., & Kim, Y. H. (2015). The Effects of Laughter Therapy on Mood State and Self-Esteem in Cancer Patients Undergoing Radiation Therapy: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 21(4), 217-222.