In the pursuit of treatments for mental health illnesses, it can be easy to overlook less conventional approaches in favour of medication and specialised therapy.
However, something as simple as laughing may provide a number of powerful biological and cognitive benefits to people living with depression, anxiety disorders and other mental health issues.
David Granirer is a man with a more-than-healthy CV ranging from stand-up comedy all the way through to mental health counselling and is certainly an advocate for the positive benefits of comedy.
Currently, Granirer leads an organisation which provides stand-up workshops to help people with a variety of issues such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders.
The aptly named ‘Stand Up For Mental Health” group involves people through writing jokes, plans and even performing their material live on stage.
David, who himself suffers from depression, described how the series of classes and performances had helped a woman to overcome her immense phobia of flying:
“One woman had a fear of flying and told me that the day after our showcase she had to get on a plane and said, ’My fear was gone. I felt like once I’d done stand-up I could do anything.’”
Another example is how comedy helped Robbie Engelquist to turn his life around.
At the age of 21, Engelquist was unemployed, spending the majority of his day smoking and watching TV.
However, after being taken to one of Granirer’s shows, he found a new lease of life and still attributes his confidence and positive mentality to an ongoing involvement in stand-up.
David’s comparison of his therapy sessions and comedy shows highlights how the two share mutual characteristics.
Throughout both activities, participants are asked to explore negative moments from their past and convert them into positives.
In therapy, this often manifests as a retrospective “how would you react now?” moment. However, in comedy, the same hypothetical situation can be conveyed as a light-hearted joke.
His perception of stand-up comedy and its ability to mitigate harmful thoughts has even led him to describe the classes as “super charged support groups”.
Converting one’s inhibitions into a format which instigates laughter in others can help people living with mental health conditions to become more confident, accept their issues and idiosyncrasies and live a more fulfilling life overall.
The health benefits provided by laughter are numerous and far reaching. For instance, laughter is known to cause a reduction in muscle tension and can even improve a person’s resistance to myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) and other serious diseases.
Another powerful side effect is the body’s release of endorphins. These naturally-occurring chemicals help to relive pain and also improve a person’s wellbeing.
David Granirer’s comedy workshops show the real power of laughter; however, its benefits aren’t limited to the stage.
Meeting with friends and family or even just watching your favourite show on television are easy ways to boost your mood through laughter which can be enjoyed on a daily basis.
Encompass are a registered charity which provides a range of professional care services to help improve the lives of people living with either an enduring mental health condition of learning disabilities.
Find out how the Encompass team can help you or a loved one by clicking here.