Laugh Your Way Out of Depression and Into Better Health
In 2020, it was estimated that 21 million adults in the US experienced a major depressive episode. Research on mental health also suggests that those who have experienced depression before are more likely to struggle with emotional control. Due to the increasing depression in America, practitioners have been on the lookout for the best, research-based strategies for regulating emotions. Now, recent research confirms a practice that feels like common sense. Laughter or humor is an excellent strategy for emotion regulation!
Researchers studied three groups of participants who suffered from depression previously and who were put in a stressful situation. One group acted as the control group, and no humor was employed in their situation. But the other two groups experienced two different types of humor:
Stress-related humor: This type of humor makes fun of the stressor by focusing on the thing creating negative emotions and transforming the negative into something humorous (If you are familiar with Harry Potter, the “riddikulus” spell in the books is a perfect example of this when the students “make fun” of the item that scares them).
Stress-unrelated humor: This type of humor distracts with something outside of the experience that is funny. It disengages the person’s emotions from the negative stimuli and focuses on humorous ideas.
During the study, after the methods of humor were employed during stressful situations, the results were clear. Both types of humor:
In comparison, non-humorous strategies were not able to come close to regulating negative emotions in the same way humor did. More importantly, stress-related humor was helpful, but stress-unrelated humor lessened negative emotions and distress better than humor related to the stressor. Although distracting humor can be used in a negative way as a form of avoidance, silly distraction, used the right way in the midst of stress, can be an excellent strategy for wrangling personal emotions.
So, what causes you the most stress? Are there situations where you might need a little more humor? Or do you have people in your life who can help you regulate negative emotions with laughter? It’s not just a saying anymore, laughter is one of the best medicines!
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