Aug 23, 2020   Melanin Magic

Laughing in the Face of Anxiety

Author by : Victoria Peel-Yates

We're living in anxious times.

If you're not feeling it, you're either a Zen master or have been living in a cave since the start of 2020 — or both.

When the pandemic first hit, I thought, "I've got this. I've been training for this, and I have all the tools I need to stay sane".

Yoga, meditation, exercise, journaling, and maintaining open communication with my partner helped me hold it together during the 3-month lockdown in Spain — one of the most restrictive in the world.

But as the subsequent social and economic crises continue to deepen, I find myself slipping more deeply and more frequently into anxious and catastrophic thoughts.

The future is uncertain, and in the fake news era, conspiracy theories abound. Don't trust the government, the corporations, or Bill Gates.
Wear a mask; don't wear a mask.

Get a vaccine; don't get a vaccine.

Be afraid of 5G.
"Anxious" doesn't even cover it at this point. I'm in full-blown paranoia.

Meditation has been a cornerstone of my mental health journey and has helped me gain more control over my mind and emotions.

But when I'm in an anxious state, sitting down quietly to focus on my breath is pretty much out of the question.

Anxiety activates the fight-or-flight response, releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol that prepare the body for an outburst of energy — either by fighting back or running away. So it's no surprise that getting calm and quiet feels like the last thing I want to do when my body is raring to go.

Usually, when I'm feeling anxious, I like to burn off that nervous feeling through movement.
The energy of anxiety feels like electricity surging through my body. It's a physical sensation, and it's uncomfortable. At times like these, a long walk, a sweaty workout, or a living room dance party are my go-to stress busters.

However, I recently heard about laughter as an antidote to anxiety.

I'm a pretty serious person — the type who corners you at a party for an in-depth analysis of the world's problems while everyone else is knocking back vodka and dancing on tables so I've always been somewhat suspicious of laughter therapy. But, after learning about its benefits, I'm willing to give it a go.

Letstalkmelanin - Laughing - Smile

How Does Laughter Help With Anxiety?

Laughter has been shown to release endorphins, the feel-good hormones that counteract the effects of adrenaline and cortisol. This lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, bringing your body into a more relaxed state.
A good laugh also increases circulation, helping to relieve any muscle tension that may have accumulated as part of the stress response. Relaxing your muscles sends a message to your brain to relax, helping to put a stop to racing thoughts.

In the long-term, laughter can also help to: 

  • Strengthen your immune system

  • Relieve pain

  • Give you a more positive outlook

  • Improve your mood


Laughter is the Best Medicine

Most people know that your mood and emotions affect your body.

But did you know that you can also use your body to influence your mood and emotions?

Try it for yourself — turn up the corners of your mouth and start to smile, even if you're in a bad mood right now. Turn it into a cheesy grin — you may start to feel a little bit silly.

Now start to laugh, even if it feels fake or forced. You'll be surprised at how quickly it turns into a real one.

If you're on the serious side like me, try putting up some funny or pictures or notes near your desk or somewhere you'll see them regularly.

Learn a few jokes, or watch some episodes of your favorite sitcom.

You could even try a laughter yoga class.

Letstalkmelanin - Laughing - Couple laughing

The Last Laugh

Laughter is a simple and completely free antidote to anxiety that you can practice anywhere, anytime. And while I won't be giving up my meditation practice anytime soon, I will be looking for ways to bring more humor into my daily routine.
For, as Monty Python once said, it's important to look on the bright side of life — no matter how anxiety-inducing it might be.

Have you tried laughter as a wellness practice?

Share your experience in the comments!


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