What can you do to help maintain mental health? Well, laughing is a good start…
Mental ill health is not to be laughed at, but laughing with someone who’s experiencing it or at something without causing offence, can be extremely beneficial.
How can laughing help you? In many ways...
- Releases endorphins which relax us and make us feel more positive
- Helps protect us from colds and viruses (good news right now) by increasing levels of the antibody ‘Immunoglobulin A’
- Helps boost our immunity
- Decreases blood pressure and heart rate when done regularly
- Enhances problem solving skills
- Helps reduce the levels of stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine
- …and much more
How can you make yourself laugh when you really don’t feel like it?
By keeping a humour diary.
Whatever makes you laugh (your humour) is completely unique to you. Identifying and writing down what makes you laugh encourages your brain to seek out funny situations. When you’re down, pick up your humour diary, remind yourself of those entertaining moments and have a chuckle!
Everything we do, say, think and feel creates pathways in our brain. The more we do something, the stronger the pathway becomes. By repeating this process we can shape and grow our humour and develop a new, positive habit.
How can humour help people cope with depression?
Humour enables us to look at a situation from an objective perspective, diffusing intense emotions. That mixed with the endorphin hit of laughter can interrupt our automatic response, e.g., stress, and help us to think differently.
However, it’s important to highlight that all emotions are important and have a role to play. It’s when we get stuck and feel depressed or anxious continuously that we need to use these tools to boost our resilience.
How else can I manage my anxiety and depression?
- Exercise – also releases endorphins and helps with cognitive function amongst many other things.
- Diet – Food impacts mood. Sugar is the enemy. Have treats but limit your intake. Indulge in veggies, pulses, nuts, legumes and fruit.
- Curb drinking – alcohol exacerbates depression. It reduces serotonin (another neurotransmitter that helps us feel positive). Whilst it initially alleviates mood, this is temporary, and the after effects are much worse.
- Screen time – Without doubt technology has helped during lockdown, but too much of it is detrimental to both physical and mental health. Ensure you take regular breaks, giving your focus to other activities.
- Manage your social media use – Carefully select who you follow. Stick to friends who make you happy and are first on your post lockdown visiting list. Limit your news intake if needs be and weed out the fake news! Finally, post responsibly. You also have the power to impact someone else’s mood too, how do you want them to feel?
- Get 8 hours sleep a night – lack of sleep negatively affects mood and memory. It also impairs the ability of the emotional and rational parts of the brain to communicate effectively, so if you’re sleep deprived it’s harder to reconcile your situation.
- Establish a routine – Especially with regards to sleep, as going to bed and getting up at the same time, improves circadian rhythms (sleeping cycles). Plan things that might alleviate your feelings such as meditation, a walk outside, any activity that has brought you pleasure in the past, reading your humour diary or watching a funny show!
- Be kind – Kindness stimulates the aforementioned serotonin and lights up the brain’s pleasure and reward system. There are many benefits to kindness. Most importantly, it increases happiness and decreases stress, depression and anxiety.
Knowing what to do is much easier than doing what you know, especially when you’re not mentally fit. Take it one step at a time and see what works for you.
Where to start? Having that laugh.