Sense of Humor Helps Recovery

Rolling Stones guitarist and admitted addict Keith Richards once said, “I’ve never had a problem with drugs. I’ve had problems with the police.” As bizarre as the joke may sound, having a sense of humor while in a difficult situation is actually good for you. In fact, there are both anecdotal and scientific data helps prove that some humor can actually be healthy during recovery.

The Science

First, let’s look at the scientific perspective.

The chemistry in the brain for drug abuse and humor actually has common traits. The euphoria of being “high” originates when a spike in neurotransmitters (dopamine) causes the brain to perceive the addictive behavior as a rewarding experience. It provides a rush of pleasure and reinforces repetition of the activity.

Both cocaine and laughter produce dopamine in similar ways. Stanford University researchers discovered that “when test subjects reacted to funny cartoons, their laughter lit up the same brain reward circuitry as cocaine.” [1] In many ways, they both create a feeling of being high.

In recovery, humor is viewed as a healthy activity. The phrase “fake it until you make it” is often associated with Alcoholics Anonymous. The theory goes that if during times of distress you imagine you feel happiness, you will gain the tools and experience to actually become happy. This leads us to the exploration of the less scientific aspect of humor during recovery.

The Reality

As children, we learn how to soothe ourselves and endure uncomfortable emotions and situations. Most addicts do not have the skills to deal with distressing situations or intense frustration, so they turn to drugs to escape.

The late comedy legend Robin Williams admitted he had an addiction to alcoholism and spent several stints in rehabilitation. He always said he dealt with his abuse issues with humor and levity.

Robin Williams is an example that finding an amusing perspective of substance abuse may not alter the circumstances of the addiction, but it can affect the perspective of the negative consequences and provide a moment of light heartedness.

Experts in the field view laughter as a drug-free option that has a useful place in recovery and therapy. Unlike much of the extreme and necessary work required during the rehabilitation process, humor can lighten the mood. Even more exciting is that in a group setting, humor can be productive and beneficial in encouraging social interaction.

A joyful experience can also become a calming influence. Research has shown that when people laugh, they “produce brain wave frequencies similar to that of a true state of meditation.” [2] This concept has received strong support and led to the creation of “Laughter Yoga” by Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India. Studies on Laughter demonstrate it has a positive influence on individuals with addictive behavior by “lowering the level of stress hormones in the body.” [3]

Recovering addict and professional comedian, Mark Lundholm believes “humor does three things: It removes shame, it lessens the threat of a topic should you choose to discuss it, and it invites trust.” [4] He now combines his past abuse experiences with his comedic wit to help countless addicts with his shows.

Developing or regaining a sense of humor is not a simple task for an addict. There are also some people who believe that making light of the situation has no place in drug abuse rehabilitation. Of course, there are times when comedy is not appropriate and some addicts may be reluctant to participate at first. However, in the proper setting, laughter can foster a sense of hope and emotional freedom to those in recovery.

References

[1] http://www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273%2803%2900751-7?_returnURL=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0896627303007517%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

[2] http://web.archive.org/web/20140515064930/http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11782387.htm?PID=6151680

[3] http://laughteryoga.org/english/home

[4] http://www.addictionpro.com/article/comedian-mark-lundholm-uses-power-humor?page=2


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Using mindfulness meditation intermixed with humor to reduce anxiety

LaughingGirl

Mindfulness Meditation can be intermixed with Humor to help any walk of life during anxiety.  Humor is infectious. It lightens burdens, inspires hope, connects us to others, increases our insight, keeps us grounded, focused, alert, and happy. Laughter is a universal language that stimulates both sides of the brain. It allows us to get messages quicker and remember them longer. We all learn more when we are having fun. Becoming more mindful of flow of duty and desire in our lives, we become more able to redeem more from our lives, and rediscover the humor that lightens our days.


Here’s a thesis abstract of a study done on nursing students in clinical practice proving positive effect of humor and mindfulness on anxiety:
Abstract:

By O’Brien, Denise A., Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2013

Clinical nursing practice requires intensive education, yet anxiety can interfere with student learning. A gap exists in the nursing literature on how nursing students can manage anxiety during clinical practice. Since the clinical portion of nursing education may be especially anxiety provoking for nursing students, a new teaching strategy has been developed to help reduce anxiety during clinical practice. In this quasi-experimental research study, a new teaching strategy known as mindfulness meditation intermixed with humor was used for four weeks with nursing students to examine whether there was a reduction in anxiety during clinical practice. A sample of 73 male and female junior and senior nursing students from a nursing program at a university in the southern region of the United States completed pretest and posttest questionnaires, which included the Spielberger’s State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), and the Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale (MSHS). One-way ANOVA and correlation analysis were conducted to assess whether gender, race, and age were significantly related to the measures of STAI, MSHS, and MAAS scores. The findings indicated there was a significant reduction in STAI scores when participants were exposed to the new teaching strategy, which indicated a reduction in anxiety levels of junior and senior clinical nursing students. The results also signified a significant increase in the MAAS and MSHS scores, which revealed that participants became more mindful and humorous when exposed to the new teaching strategy. Implications include the use of mindfulness meditation intermixed with humor being implemented by nurse educators as a teaching strategy in clinical nursing courses to help reduce anxiety levels.