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Health & Exercise Forum

Laugh Your Way to Happiness: Part 1 of 2 on Depression

Feb 4, 2013

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumThe decorations are long gone. Family and friends are back to their routines. The bills from the holidays have arrived and winter has hit hard with too many short, cold, dark and dreary days. It only takes a few other problems like stress at work and health issues to put you over the edge…

Depression is the most common mental disorder and is twice as common among women as in men. It impacts life in many ways; family, friends, work, play and general health. Symptoms include: fatigue, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, decreased sexual interest, weight change, and constipation. Many of these symptoms are likely to bring an individual to their family physician. Unfortunately, depression is on the increase in the United States. According to the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, in the 1990’s, 7 million visits to a primary care physician were for the treatment of depression. 10 years later the number doubled.

Recent research is very encouraging and supports the use of laughter and exercise to prevent and treat depression as a powerful adjunct to therapy and medication. While it is important to state that depression is no laughing matter, many mental health professionals support it as a method to confront an unpleasant situation and gain some level of control over it. One study showed that in elderly people who used humor on a regular basis, reported improved satisfaction in life as compared to their less humorous contemporaries.

4 Reasons Why Humor is Helpful in Battling Depression

(based on recent studies)

  1. Humor Demystifies Depression: Humor lets others know that you can be depressed and still be human…a productive and valuable member of society. For example, “I’m depressed but I am not a bad person and I can still be funny and fun to be around.”
  2. Humor Improves Your Mood: Humor lightens temperament as it increases blood flow to the brain to release dopamine and endorphin, which are chemicals that improve mood.
  3. Humor Relieves Stress: Humor increases chemicals in the brain that control the release of a stress release hormone called cortisol.
  4. Humor Improves Self-Esteem: Telling a joke, being funny, and making others laugh, make YOU feel good about yourself…and feel more normal.


4 Tips to Improve Your Sense of Humor

  1. Hang Around With Fun and Funny People: Whenever possible, try to associate with good people who “pick you up” and have good karma. Avoid people who are “downers” and tend to “such the oxygen” out of the room.
  2. Listen to Jokes & Learn to Enjoy Them: While this may be difficult to do when your down, but it will go a long way to pick you up.
  3. Learn to Tell a Joke: This is also not easy but very important to improve your sense of humor. It will help you rediscover your “inner child.” Ease into it and start slowly. Practice in front of a mirror in the privacy of your home. Begin using it on family and good friends.
  4. Joke About Your Depression: It will be cathartic. For example, “oh my God, that would be so funny if I wasn’t depressed!” “Don’t tell my shrink I laughed so hard because he will take away my meds!” Don’t put yourself down, but laugh at yourself if you mess up telling a joke or trying to be funny. Then, try again.

Sources: If you or someone you know is in danger from depression contact the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention at 1-888-333-2377.

Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum in the Scranton Times-Tribune – every Monday. Next Week, Part II of II - Exercise to Prevent Depression.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor  in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in downtown Scranton and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.