Why all the stigma around mental health? Why do people have to be so cruel to those that just need a little help? We all need a little help now and then (even if some folks won’t ever admit it). There is no shame in admitting you need help and asking for it is the best thing to do. Life can be quite challenging at times, and our hearts and minds can be somewhat fragile at times as well. Getting help shows courage and demonstrates you have the strength to do what is needed to move forward in your life.
We face so much negativity in life, and a good part of it is during our youth, during the years we are developing our emotional and mental makeup and forming our personality as well. School years can be both the most wonderful and also the most dangerous time for us as individuals. During those years we form social bonds and face opposition from others in the form of bullying and social stereotyping. This is when we tend to gain many emotional and mental scars and problems. If we do not learn to overcome them eventually they just get worse as we age.
With all the suicides and gun violence and other forms of violence on the rise, it should be very apparent there is a need for more extensive mental health programs for all ages. Parents and teachers alike should be more observant and responsive to signs of depression, being bullied, and psychotic behavior. If we can catch a lot of the problems early we may avert the negative outcome that many may have to experience later in their lives. More has to be done both on the local and federal levels to make mental health services easier and more affordable to access so we can get a handle on this mental health problem our nation is facing.
Just remember the next time you see someone who needs help don’t just laugh at them or ignore them, instead try to help them find the help they need.
Amusement and pleasant surprises – and the laughter they can trigger – add texture to the fabric of daily life.
Those giggles and guffaws can seem like just silly throwaways. But laughter, in response to funny events, actually takes a lot of work, because it activates many areas of the brain: areas that control motor, emotional, cognitive and social processing.
People begin laughing in infancy, when it helps develop muscles and upper body strength. Laughter is not just breathing. It relies on complex combinations of facial muscles, often involving movement of the eyes, head and shoulders.
Laughter – doing it or observing it – activates multiple regions of the brain: the motor cortex, which controls muscles; the frontal lobe, which helps you understand context; and the limbic system, which modulates positive emotions. Turning all these circuits on strengthens neural connections and helps a healthy brain coordinate its activity.
By activating the neural pathways of emotions like joy and mirth, laughter can improve your mood and make your physical and emotional response to stress less intense. For example, laughing may help control brain levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, similar to what antidepressants do. By minimizing your brain’s responses to threats, it limits the release of neurotransmitters and hormones like cortisol that can wear down your cardiovascular, metabolic and immune systems over time. Laughter’s kind of like an antidote to stress, which weakens these systems and increases vulnerability to diseases.
Laughter’s cognitive power
A good sense of humor and the laughter that follows depend on an ample measure of social intelligence and working memory resources.
Laughter, like humor, typically sparks from recognizing the incongruities or absurdities of a situation. You need to mentally resolve the surprising behavior or event – otherwise you won’t laugh; you might just be confused instead. Inferring the intentions of others and taking their perspective can enhance the intensity of the laughter and amusement you feel.
Laughter creates bonds and increases intimacy with others. Linguist Don Nilsen points out that chuckles and belly laughs seldom happen when alone, supporting their strong social role. Beginning early in life, infants’ laughter is an external sign of pleasure that helps strengthen bonds with caregivers.
Later, it’s an external sign of sharing an appreciation of the situation. For example, public speakers and comedians try to get a laugh to make audiences feel psychologically closer to them, to create intimacy.
By practicing a little laughter each day, you can enhance social skills that may not come naturally to you. When you laugh in response to humor, you share your feelings with others and learn from risks that your response will be accepted/shared/enjoyed by others and not be rejected/ignored/disliked.
In studies, psychologists have found that men with Type A personality characteristics, including competitiveness and time urgency, tend to laugh more, while women with those traits laugh less. Both sexes laugh more with others than when alone.
Laughter’s mental power
Positive psychology researchers study how people can live meaningful lives and thrive. Laughter produces positive emotions that lead to this kind of flourishing. These feelings – like amusement, happiness, mirth and joy – build resiliency and increase creative thinking. They increase subjective well-being and life satisfaction. Researchers find that these positive emotions experienced with humor and laughter correlate with appreciating the meaning of life and help older adults hold a benign view of difficulties they’ve faced over a lifetime.
Laughter in response to amusement is a healthy coping mechanism. When you laugh, you take yourself or the situation less seriously and may feel empowered to problem-solve. For example, psychologists measured the frequency and intensity of 41 people’s laughter over two weeks, along with their ratings of physical and mental stress. They found that the more laughter experienced, the lower the reported stress. Whether the instances of laughter were strong, medium or weak in intensity didn’t matter.
Maybe you want to grab some of these benefits for yourself – can you force laughter to work for you?
A growing number of therapists advocate using humor and laughter to help clients build trust and improve work environments; a review of five different studies found that measures of well-being did increase after laughter interventions. Sometimes called homeplay instead of homework, these interventions take the form of daily humor activities – surrounding yourself with funny people, watching a comedy that makes you laugh or writing down three funny things that happened today.
You can practice laughing even when alone. Intentionally take a perspective that appreciates the funny side of events. Laughing yoga is a technique of using breathing muscles to achieve the positive physical responses of natural laughing with forced laughter (ha ha hee hee ho ho). Some tips on how to get started with laughing yoga.
Researchers today certainly aren’t laughing off its value, but a good deal of the research on laughter’s influence on mental and physical health is based on self-report measures. More psychological experimentation around laughter or the contexts in which it occurs will likely support the importance of laughing throughout your day, and maybe even suggest more ways to intentionally harness its benefits.
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