Many of us look forward to the summer: the warmer weather, the vacations, the longer days, the extra sunlight.

But for some, the summer months are not a relief from the seemingly endless winter months. For some, summertime brings on depression. Sometimes, summer depression has a biological cause, like a chemical imbalance, while other times, the particular stresses of summer can pile up and bring on feelings of sadness and depression.

It can be even more frustrating to feel like you are supposed to be happy and enjoying life because it’s the summer and instead, you are bogged down by depression.

Many are familiar with “seasonal affective disorder,” or SAD.  SAD typically causes depression as the days get shorter and colder.  What is less known is that people with SAD can actually get it in the reverse — the onset of summer triggers depression symptoms.

Specific symptoms of summer depression often include: loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, weight loss, and feelings of agitation or anxiety. Summertime depression can also create an increased feeling of isolation.

Here are some things that may cause an increase in summertime depression:

  • Disrupted schedules in summer. Our schedules can get shifted during the summer time months and often times, that disruption can offset depression especially with people who need a reliable routine to keep balanced.
  • Body image issues. Feeling unhappy and self-conscious about one’s looks in summer clothing can also increase depression.
  • Financial worries. Summers can be expensive. With vacation, meeting up with friends for a night out, dinners out, etc. spending can increase and thus, results in increased worry and depression.
  • The heat. It’s not enjoyable for everyone. It can be very oppressive physically and mentally.

So what do you do if you think you are suffering from summertime depression?

  • Get help. If you think you’re getting depressed, no matter what time of year, get help. See a psychologist, talk to your PCP, share with family and friends about how you are feeling.
  • Keep up with your exercise. Regular physical activity can help keep the risk and/or symptoms of depression down. But be careful not to overdo dieting and fitness.
  • Protect yourself. Don’t overextend yourself. Don’t feel obligated to do anything and everything. Take time for yourself.
  • Talk to your doctor about medication and/or adjusting current medications.

Happy 2019!  As we run, walk, or maybe even crawl into the New Year, we often begin with a desire, if not a definitive plan to make lifestyle improvements.  Once and for all, we’re going to tackle that cluttered home, lose those extra pounds, or find the career where we’ll truly find fulfillment.  Despite our good intentions, we may quickly find ourselves overwhelmed and frustrated as we set lofty and often unrealistic goals.  Without a thorough assessment of our needs, wants, and resources, we can often fail to achieve our intended lifestyle improvements.  The New Year offers an excellent opportunity for a fresh start and a reexamination of our goals and choices.  As we begin 2019, I encourage you to look at your life with a critical eye and decide what you need to, want to, and are willing to try to work to improve.  Here are 19 suggestions for 2019 that can help.  Through these, you can improve your chances of lifestyle balance, goal achievement and of living the life you want and deserve.

1) Spend some time alone.  Get to know yourself without the influence of others.  You might find you like your own company.

2) Learn and practice Mindfulness.  Work on being in the present rather than allowing yourself to dwell in the past or anticipate the future.

3) Set boundaries with others, be they family, friends or coworkers.  Do not accept disrespect.

4) Allow others to help you.  They’ll feel good and you may get some much needed relief.

5) Get up and move!  Take the stairs, go for a brisk walk, do some jumping jacks, practice yoga, ride your bike.  Find a way to move your body.  Simply moving briskly 20 minutes each day can help decrease anxiety, depression and relieve stress.

6) Don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t accomplish everything you planned each day.  No one does.  Work on small, realistic, attainable daily goals.  Small achievements reinforce us, leading us to want to strive for more.

7) Help someone else.  You’ll feel good and they may get some much needed relief.

8) Surround yourself with supportive and loving people.  Make good choices about with whom you choose to share your world.

9) Work on clearing away physical clutter.  You’ll be amazed at how this can lead to increased productivity and decreased anxiety.

10) Decide what changes will make you the happiest in the coming year.  Prioritize those.

11) Give yourself a time out.  When you feel overwhelmed, take 10 minutes alone to regroup.  Close your eyes and breathe.

12) Stop comparing your life, body, career, children, house, relationship, etc., to others.  You are a unique individual and deserve to be treated as such.

13) Look for opportunities to enhance parts of your life you never considered.  Read more.  Learn an instrument.  Take a break from social media.  Volunteer.

14) Share your intentions to improve your life with someone.  You’re more likely to achieve goals when you tell someone else.

15) Take risks but don’t be careless.

16) Let go of regret and grudges.  These simply expend energy unnecessarily and increase stress.

17) Have high expectations of others, both personally and professionally.

18) Be honest about your present circumstances.  If you’re feeling anxious and depressed, seek help.

19) Finally, as the great Maya Angelou said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”  Let’s all seek to do the same in the New Year.

Best wishes for a wonderful 2019!

“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.”-Epicurus

As summer approaches, many of us are looking forward to vacation. We have spent months saving and planning – and we cannot wait to relax and de-stress!

However, when you’re enjoying the time off, your healthy living habits don’t need to “check out.” Vacations can provide a convenient excuse to overindulge. Overeating, consuming more alcohol, falling off an exercise routine … and before you know it, extra pounds have become your vacation souvenir.

You certainly don’t want to deprive yourself while you are on vacation, but thinking in moderation is critical. You can still enjoy your time away and do things in moderation. Here are some helpful tips for maintaining your healthy habits while vacation:

  1. Downsize. If you are out to eat and the portions are bigger than you normally consume, take some home for leftovers, split an entree with someone, or even order an appetizer instead of a full meal.
  2. Make healthy food choices. Ask for your entree to be served with fresh vegetables or a side salad. Instead of ordering something fried, see if it can be prepared in a healthier way like grilled, broiled or steamed.
  3. Remember that calories from alcohol count! Who doesn’t dream of having a tropical drink with an umbrella in it while lounging by the pool? Alternate adult beverages with other healthier choices like water, tea, coffee, club soda or unsweetened tea.
  4. Don’t overindulge with sweets. Have one scoop of ice cream instead of a sundae or share a dessert with the rest at the table.
  5. Consider your exercise plans. Opt for locations that will allow you to engage in physical activities you enjoy. Keep in mind that being physically active is the ticket to enjoying extra calories without weight gain.
  6. Plan fun fitness activities every day. Walk the golf course or take a jog on the beach, go sightseeing, or go on a nature hike. Remember that there are countless opportunities for you to work in a little exercise each day while on vacation.

In summary, vacation can still be a time to let loose, relax, and enjoy yourself. But it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. You can go on vacation, enjoy yourself, and still feel good when you get home, if you maintain a healthy balance.

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle

Generally, society discourages us from being in touch with our emotions. Social media seems to encourage us only to show a happy face to the world. Professional work environments appear to promote those who act dispassionately.

However, being in touch with your feelings–both positive and negative–will make you a better and more complete person. By understanding your emotions, you will feel better about yourself. You will improve your confidence, knowing that you are not hiding behind a false front.

What does it mean to get in touch with your emotions?

One interpretation is being able to communicate emotions to others. A large part of emotional security is validating your own feelings by expressing them to other people.

When we choose to not to express our feelings, we punish ourselves and others. We may no longer make ourselves available to others and may withdraw, or just not be fully engaged when we do spend time with other people. At other times, if we choose not to express our emotions, we may react inappropriately because our emotions are pulling us in a different direction from where we really want or need to go. When we can express how we truly feel in healthy ways, we can solve problems, improve relationships, and enjoy life. In addition, we end up viewing our lives more positively because we are not holding on to unhealed or confusing feelings.

There are many reasons why we might feel the need to hold in our true feelings. We may feel we can’t express them without causing embarrassment or harm to another. We may not want to unleash our feelings out of fear that once we start, we will not be able to stop. But by letting our feelings out, we are letting out what hurts, while making more room for positive thoughts and feelings. Expressing our negative emotions in a way that is considerate of others people’s feelings is actually a good way to free us from them.

We can get better at knowing what we are feeling and why. This skill is called emotional awareness. Understanding our emotions can help us relate to other people, know what we want, and make choices. Even emotions we consider “negative” (like anger or sadness) can give us insight into ourselves and others.

Although emotional awareness comes more easily to some people than others, it is a skill that anyone can work on. Here are a few ways to improve your emotional awareness:

  1. Notice and name your emotions. Start by just noticing different emotions as you feel them. Name them to yourself.
  2. Track one emotion. Pick a familiar emotion — like happiness — and track it throughout the day. Notice how often you feel it and when. Whenever that emotion shows up, you can simply make a mental note to yourself or jot it down in a journal. Notice where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing when that emotion is present. Note whether the emotion is mild, medium, or strong and if it has different intensities at different times.
  3. Build your emotional vocabulary. Try going through the alphabet and thinking of one emotion for each letter.
  4. Think of related emotions that vary in intensity. See how many you can come up with.
  5. Keep a feelings journal. Take a few minutes each day to write about how you feel and why. Journaling about your experiences and feelings builds emotional awareness. You also can express an emotion creatively. Make art, write poetry, or compose music that captures a specific emotion you’re feeling.

We all have emotions every day, even when we do not realize it. When we are able to be in tune with our emotions, we remain true to ourselves, and we help ourselves receive the support we need. Ignoring our feelings may be the easy choice in the moment, but it can have serious repercussions for our relationships and our mental health. Being in touch with our emotions can help us be more empathetic, know our strengths and weaknesses, make better decisions, and ask for what we need.


September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It’s an opportunity to promote resources and awareness around the issues of suicide prevention, how to help others, and how to talk about suicide without increasing the risk of harm.

Suicide is a national epidemic, and it’s getting worse. Not only is suicide the second-leading cause of death for all Americans between the ages of 15 and 54, but the age-adjusted suicide rate in the U.S. also increased a staggering 24 percent from 1999 to 2014.

For a variety of reasons, suicide largely remains a taboo topic in our society. When it does receive media attention, the reaction is typically to blame the victim, and to brand it a cowardly act. Unfortunately, this type of response is off-base, and it sidesteps the relationship between suicide and mental health and addiction.

We all should strive to understand this epidemic better, to identify those who need help, and to provide help to those who seek it.

There’s no single cause for suicide, nor does it discriminate on age, gender or background. Suicide most often occurs when a person suffering from a mental health condition is unable to cope as a result of being overwhelmed by current stressors. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Mental illnesses like depression, anxiety and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide. Yet it’s important to note that most people who appropriately manage their mental health illnesses through various treatments like medication and therapy, lead fulfilling lives.

A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want help. People who take their lives don’t want to die—they just want to stop hurting. Suicide prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously. It is not uncommon for someone who thinks a friend or family member is considering suicide to be afraid to bring up the subject. But talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.

Here are common warning signs according to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE):

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others;
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

It’s important to note that suicide can be prevented through education and awareness. The warning signs can be subtle, but they are there.

The first step for prevention is bringing the topic out of the closet and facing it head on. First, pay attention and notice when someone is showing signs that they could be at risk. Second, take the time to let this person know that you care. Too often, people see suicide as something they can do nothing about, but this is rarely true. Everyone can play a crucial role in helping those around us who struggle with these thoughts and feelings on this journey to survival.

If you believe a friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering an empathetic, listening ear. Let them know that they are not alone and that you care. Don’t take responsibility, however, for making them well. You can offer support, but you can’t make it better for a suicidal person. They have to make a personal commitment to recovery.

If you or someone you know may be suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline –

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” – Benjamin Franklin

It’s easy to be glib about drinking. It is, after all, a significant element of most social activity. Drinking alcohol helps us let loose, shake off the strains of a hard day, and connect with good friends. It provides a temporary positive impact on one’s mood. It does all of the above… when enjoyed in moderation.

But alcohol abuse, particularly long-term alcohol abuse, can have devastating effects on your mental health, not to mention your physical health. (Apologies for not being glib about that.)

Alcohol abuse tends to increase mental disorders. Specifically, the odds of developing a mood disorder are 3.6x greater for someone abusing alcohol compared to one who does not. The odds for developing an anxiety disorder are 2.6x greater (Balhara 2015).

The co-occurrence of alcohol abuse and mental illness is associated with:

  • Greater risk of various psychological, interpersonal, and social problems
  • Impaired decision making
  • Poor therapeutic adherence (not sticking with therapy)
  • Increased risk of relapse
  • Increased risk of self-harm (including the risk of suicide)

The brain depends on a balance of chemicals and processes. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can disrupt that balance, affecting thoughts, feelings and actions – and, at times, our long-term mental health.

The calm feeling one can get after a first drink is due to the chemical changes alcohol causes in the brain. For many people, having one drink can make them feel more confident and less anxious. That’s because the alcohol is starting to depress the part of the brain that is associated with inhibition.

However, the more a person drinks, the more the brain starts to be affected. Regardless of the mood you’re in to begin with, when high levels of alcohol are involved, instead of that calm and relaxing feeling increasing, it’s more likely that a negative emotional response will take over.

In other words, reaching for a drink won’t always have the effect you’re seeking. While having a glass of wine or a beer after a hard day might help someone relax initially, in the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to cope with. This is because drinking a lot on a regular basis can interfere with neurotransmitters in our brains that are essential for positive mental health.

Drinking tends to alter one’s perception of a situation and impacts one’s ability to respond appropriately and accurately to all the cues around us. For example, if someone is prone to anxiety and notices something that could be interpreted as threatening in the environment, it’s likely one will focus in on that and disregard other less threatening/neutral information. Or, someone might narrow in on a partner talking to someone they are jealous of, rather than noticing all the other people they’ve been chatting with before that.

If one drinks heavily and regularly, they are more likely to develop some symptoms of depression. That is largely due to the fact that regular drinking lowers the levels of serotonin in the brain – a chemical that helps to regulate mood.

Someone who already experiences anxiety or depression is more likely to develop drinking problems. For some people, the anxiety or depression came first and they’ve reached for alcohol to try to relieve it. For others- drinking came first, so it may be a root cause of their anxieties.

If you tend to drink to improve your mood or mask your depression, you may be starting a vicious cycle. Here are some warning signs that your drinking is affecting is your mood:

  • Poor sleep after drinking
  • Feeling tired because of a hangover
  • Low mood (depression)
  • Experiencing anxiety in situations where you would normally feel comfortable

Here are some ways to prevent alcohol from affecting your mood and from increasing your dependency on alcohol:

  • Use exercise and relaxation to tackle stress instead of alcohol
  • Learn breathing techniques to try when you feel anxious
  • Talk to someone about your worries. Don’t try and mask them with alcohol
  • Always be aware of why you’re drinking
  • Don’t assume drinking will make a bad feeling go away, it’s more likely to exaggerate it

If you think you have a problem with alcohol or just want to talk with someone about how you are feeling, then the next step is to reach out to someone you trust or to go directly to a mental health professional who can ensure that you get the help and support you need. Getting help for alcohol abuse and mental health issues is much easier when you have people you can lean on for encouragement, comfort, and guidance. Without support, it’s easy to fall back into old patterns when things get tough.

For some individuals, abstinence from alcohol is the only workable solution. For others, drinking in moderation works. However, alcohol abuse works for no one.

World AIDS Day is December 1st–it presents a worldwide opportunity for people to unite in the fight against HIV, to show their support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died.

One of the best ways to join in this fight is to get tested for HIV. The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. And if you have any risk factors, a general rule is to get tested annually.

Despite a lot of growth in terms of people’s understanding and acceptance of the HIV virus, there still remains a great deal of stigma around getting tested for HIV. Many people still fear that others will think less of them if they are diagnosed with HIV. They are also worried that they could be discriminated against if others learned of their HIV-positive status. As a result, they don’t get tested even if they fall into a high risk category.

Additionally, some people won’t get tested because they are scared of the results. In the early days of the HIV epidemic, many people saw being diagnosed with HIV as a death sentence. However, there has been tremendous growth and development in the treatment for HIV-positive individuals. While there remains no cure, regular testing increases the odds of early detection, which drastically improves outcomes. Some folks don’t get tested because they think they don’t have any of the risk factors for HIV.

However, a 2011 study showed that 69% of HIV-infected patients said they weren’t tested earlier because they didn’t think they were at risk! (Source: Medwiser, a nonprofit dedicated to providing insightful and innovative solutions to the HIV/AIDS crisis.) It is important to know all possible risk factors. Specifically, HIV can be transmitted through a number of bodily fluids, including: blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. If you have engaged in behaviors that put you in contact with these bodily fluids, you may be at risk for getting HIV. Examples are vaginal or anal sex without a condom or without being on medicines that prevent or treat HIV, or sharing injection drug equipment with someone who has HIV.

HIV testing is paramount in ensuring that infected people are diagnosed early and receive treatment which helps prevent new infections. According to Medwiser, here are some important facts about HIV testing:

  • 20% of individuals living with HIV don’t know they are infected
  • 49% of new HIV transmission are infected by people who don’t know they have the disease
  • Early diagnosis and treatment can decrease transmissibility by greater than 95%
  • HIV positive patients treated early will live an average of 11 years longer

Those who don’t get tested will be diagnosed late, when the virus may have already progressed to AIDS. This makes treatment less effective, increases the likelihood of transmitting HIV to others, and causes early death.

A key part of taking care of yourself both physically and psychologically means finding a health care provider that you feel comfortable with and is someone with whom you feel you can be open and honest. The more you tell your provider about what’s really going on with you, the better they can help you. So talk with your healthcare provider about getting tested as soon as possible. Doing so will mean you are taking an integral part of HIV prevention and awareness.

If you’ve ever blushed from embarrassment, “glowed” from happiness, or experienced an “angry” breakout of your skin, you know that your skin can mirror what you are feeling within. Emotional issues, stress, and other psychological factors can activate or worsen certain skin conditions.

Just as psychological and emotional stress can lead to skin conditions, the reverse can also be true.  In fact, people with skin problems are at higher risk of developing psychological problems, and these problems can linger even after the skin gets better.

Skin conditions can reduce one’s quality of life, in terms of unfair judgments on one’s appearance, or pressure to look “normal” or to comply with social standards.  As a result, people with a skin condition may:

  • experience decreased sense of body image,
  • have lower self-esteem,
  • avoid situations where skin is exposed,
  • feel anxious about people judging them,
  • withdraw from social interactions,
  • have sexual and relationship issues,
  • feel shame and/or disgust about their appearance.

While we can’t necessarily control how our emotional state manifests itself in our skin, we can control how our skin problems impact our emotional state.

So what can you do to maintain a positive and healthy view of yourself when suffering from skin problems? Here are some ways to feel good about who you are regardless of how your skin looks:

  • Appreciate all that your body as a whole can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you – laughing, breathing, dreaming, running, dancing, etc.
  • Keep a top-10 list of things you like about yourself — things that aren’t related to your skin condition or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.
  • Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not skin-deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful regardless of whether you have perfect skin. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
  • Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific parts of your skin. See yourself as you want others to see you — as a whole person.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
  • Shut down any negative thoughts that tell you your skin is not “right” or that you are a “flawed” person, and overpower those feelings with positivity. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.
  • Do something nice for yourself — something that lets your body know you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, find a peaceful place outside to relax.

The most important thing to recognize is that you are not powerless to minimize the overall effect that skin problems have on your daily life.  Give some of these techniques a shot – your mind is a powerful thing!

It is likely that you or someone you know has a “weird” obsession with food or their body. These days, the culture of beauty and perfection is understood even when we are young girls watching the world around us. Three year olds more commonly ask their moms if they are fat. You probably can give a lecture yourself on the media ruining the lives of many girls with standards of beauty that most of us won’t meet in our lifetimes. Most women also have been on some diet by the time they are 25 and have their own diets in their heads (cheat days, no carbs if you eat cake at a party, Paleo, Weight Watchers points, healthy eating, juice cleanses, calorie counting). The list is long and the demand on our psyches is high.

I would argue that if more than 10% of your day is spent worrying about what you will or won’t eat and you are upset with yourself for losing the battle of these rules, you may have disordered eating or thinking about food. And if that time spent fretting is full of self-loathing, punishments, make-up time at the gym or other compensatory behaviors, you are headed for the emotional and physical suffering that can become an eating disorder. Further, if your worry interferes with socializing and intimacy with others on any level you are showing more signs of an eating disorder than you might want to live with day to day.

What crosses the line to an eating disorder? Well, first we need to know that the number one mental health disorder that leads to death is Anorexia. It beats out suicide, which is quite alarming and perhaps should be classified as a suicidal illness. I imagine that most of you reading this can define the major diagnoses in the Eating Disorder list: Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder and Orthorexia may be familiar to you as you probably have read about these or have known someone who has struggled. Orthorexia is the least known and is actually best defined as a systematic elimination of foods one won’t eat as they are defined as unhealthy. The list is obsessive and ends up limiting many enjoyable life moments and affects mood and health. This disorder is not someone who says they don’t want to eat sugar – this is more a disorder where the body image and mood are affected by the choices that one will eat due to many factors. The underlying obsession leads to much anxiety, and Steven Bratmas, MD calls people with this disorder “health food junkies”.

In reality, if you see yourself in these descriptions and feel that you have any behaviors that you hide or get angry when you are confronted with them (bingeing, eating too few calories a day, exercising to excess, only eating certain foods, purging via vomiting or other methods etc.) you may require help to overcome these behaviors. And, it is not only our body that suffers. Living with an eating disorder is a disruption in your life. It is a mental health issue and not just a will-powered choice. Most women with an ED (Eating Disorder) also have other mental health issues that accompany the ED behaviors.

Depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder are some of the illnesses that lead to or are caused by having an eating disorder. It affects all areas of one’s life. These disorders harm our bodies, careers, relationships, make us lonely, erode creativity and fun and hamper being a full and successful person in the world. What to do? Seek help. Tell someone and leave the secrets behind.

What I have learned as a therapist for the past 33 years is that secrets can lead to severe illness constricting our happiness and functioning. Tell your physician, a friend, anyone you trust and start to unwind how you got to this place. There are many types and levels of care and your people, as you trust them, can help guide you. One of my clients told me the other day that she goes to the gym and spends her time seeing who she is thinner or heavier than, who has greater endurance than her and how she will beat them next time. When I asked if this was an enjoyable use of her time or if she ever talked to anyone, she looked at me like I had three heads. Body image issues and eating disorders are issues of loneliness and a feeling of being less than everyone else. If this is part of your story, or someone you know, reach out for help. It is everywhere around you. A good team of a physician, nutritionist and therapist can help you untangle the web you are stuck in and find a full and rich life.

I was wondering why the ball was getting bigger.

Then it hit me.

We have all heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine” – and there is more than a nugget of truth in it.

Laughter has a significant effect on our bodies and our minds. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins and serotonin, which creates feelings of happiness, love, and euphoria.  Laughter also initiates a psychological phenomenon called “facial feedback,” whereby a certain expression can cause a person to have the corresponding emotion. Just the simple act of smiling from laughing can improve one’s mood.

As a result, laughter can be a powerful tool in everyone’s lives. It makes people feel good, and that good feeling remains even after the laughter stops. Laughter helps people maintain positive and optimistic outlooks even through difficult situations, disappointments, and losses.  Even more significant and powerful than getting relief from sadness and pain, laughter gives people courage to find hope in difficult times.  A laugh, or even just a smile, can help a person overcome significant obstacles.

There are several links between laughter and mental health.  Laughter helps to temper distressing emotions like anxiety, sadness, and anger.  Laughter helps you relax and recharge by decreasing stress, increasing energy, and helping you stay focused and accomplish more.  Laughter also helps change perspective by permitting people to see situations in more realistic and healthy ways.  It creates psychological distance which in turn, helps people avoid becoming overwhelmed. We all can benefit from incorporating more laughter in our lives.  Here are some simple ways bring it on home:

  1. Smile. A smile is the beginning of laughter and like laughter, it is contagious.
  2. Count your blessings. Make a list of good things in life which will distance you from negative thoughts which can be a barrier to laughter.
  3. When you hear laughter, go to it. People are often more than happy to share something funny because it gives them a chance to laugh again.
  4. Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily, both at themselves and at life and find humor in everyday things. Their happy points of view and laughter are contagious.

By focusing on a few small changes and welcoming laughter into your life, you can make significant steps towards improving your overall mental health.


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