Is Laughter The Best Medicine?

Ferris wheel on a summers day
Does being happy help your ADHD?

Smile and the World Smiles With You?

It might just be in my imagination. A lot of things are.

But I’m starting to wonder, is my ADHD seasonal? Do the symptoms abate in the warm, long days of summer?

Then grow worse during February’s cold, grey?

Certainly my mood improves at this time of year.

A combination of the sun, warmth, being outdoors, and some kind of primal echo from my childhood… “School’s out for summer! Not more recess, no more books! No more teacher’s dirty looks.”

Alice Cooper never snarled truer words.

Clearly I prefer summer.

But does my mood impact the severity of my ADHD symptoms?

Can unhappiness make my ADHD symptoms worse?

Well, women with ADHD are often misdiagnosed with Depression. (Or properly diagnosed with Depression, but their accompanying ADHD is missed.)

How Do You Measure Mood?

Tying my ‘mood’ to my ADHD symptoms strikes me as a bit new-agey.

Yet the Anti-Depressant medications that target Serotonin in the brain have proven helpful to people with ADHD.

Dr. Martin SeligmanSince Dr. Martin Seligman pioneered the term Positive Psychology in 1988, the amount of hard scientific research on ‘happiness’ has soared.

The same real-time brain imaging machines that have revealed the neurological differences in people with ADHD, have also showed the dramatic differences between people who are very happy, versus those who are struggling with Depression.

Happiness is a Warm Puppy

Isn’t happiness a profound state of being? Yes. And yet, apparently, you can ‘Fake it till you make it?’

I won’t go into all the research, but there are a lot of ways to elevate your mood, and feel better.

Being outdoors, Mindfulness, helping others, consciously practicing gratitude, walking in nature, exercising, walking, being with other people, (and it doesn’t have to be a huge crowd) impact our mood.

Research is showing these ‘Holistic Solutions’ will raise your spirits. (Whereas raising a glass of spirits does not.)

Gratitude is hugely powerful. I’ll write more about that at another time, but there is a reason saying grace, giving thanks, and expressing gratitude are central to all the world’s major religions.

I’d suggest it’s why they became major religions.

Happiness is Good! Who Knew?

This is important because happiness is not fleeting. Or rather, the impact is not fleeting. Happiness (or sadness) affects your whole body.

Everything from protecting your heart, increasing your immunity, and even improving your peripheral vision.

(So when searching for my phone, if I’m in a snit, I’ll walk right by it. The term blind-rage is based on our physiology. Incredible, right?)

Where am I going with this? Until I started to understand my mindset and deal with it, I was not a happy person.

I made people laugh. But that’s different.

I was fun to be around. But I wasn’t feeling ‘fun.’

After all, your personal trainer might have you looking fabulous, and still be overweight themselves. (Okay, that was a weird analogy. You’re welcome to suggest a better one.)

Stay Calm and Find Your Keys

Research has proved that ‘positivity’ is more than a surface thing. You can tell the points in my life when I’ve been unhappy. It’s in every photo.

The emotional burden shows in my face, my body, I’m heavier. Tired looking. My smiles are forced. I look tired, worn. It’s there.

When I’ve been happy, you can see that too. No wonder. I’m better emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

The best medicine? I’ll leave that to the researchers, but the evidence is growing that it’s good medicine.

Happiness must be key to success, health, productivity, and creating a life that matters. How could you not be happy?

You could argue that happiness is not the cause of health, but it’s the result of living a life that matters.

For me, the happiness doesn’t come from succeeding, but in taking on a challenge that is engaging and rewarding. Fighting the good fight.

And the opposite is true.

If you’ve ever been in Depression, you know it’s a whole-body experience: stomach aches, pains, headaches, and more. Your view of life narrows.

Your ability to imagine dries up. You can’t focus. Become forgetful. Unmotivated. Trouble remembering…

In fact, you start to look like you have ADHD.

Will a Smile Cure My ADHD?

No. Nothing will ‘cure’ you. (Not yet.)

It takes a holistic approach, multiple tools and strategies, to minimize the impact.

Relaxed Person
There are many ways to treat ADHD Holistically. Meditation is one of those ways.

But ADHD can make you miserable.

Once your thoughts start running away on you, rushing to the dark side, swirling from self-deprecating to self-destructive, and sending your body into overdrive, you’re no longer control.

All it takes to gain control?

Just notice.

Just notice that you’re in a state of anxiety. That’s the first step.

And as dumb as it sounds, it’s actually a profound, existential shift.

You’ve moved, in an instant, from a state of anxiety to a state of ‘noticing.’ You’re operating at a higher level of self-awareness.

I used to dismiss my upset. Or minimize it. Or think, “Boy, what an idiot I am for getting so upset,” because that’s just more of the same negative crap.

I’ve been focusing on Habits over the last few Blogs. And negative thinking, fear, pessimism, assuming the worst… those were all habitual ways of thinking for me.

The only way to break the habit was to see it. To recognize what was going on.

Just notice.

Now, You Have Choice

By interrupting the negatives you prevent damage to your mind and your body.

Want to know a secret?

When someone else is anxious, or angry, or afraid, don’t try and talk them out of it.

If they’re having a meltdown about school, their love life, or Donald Trump, just notice it, acknowledge it.

“I get that you are really afraid about this.” Done without judgment, it allows them to pause, and check in… and they’ve shifted too.

So for me, knowing what ADHD is, knowing it’s there and probably always will be, gives me the ability to stop, interrupt, and reframe what’s going on.

Then, all that energy I used to squander, stewing in anger, frustration, blame, and shame?  I get to save that energy and use it for something that makes me happy.

Best,

Rick

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3 Replies to “Is Laughter The Best Medicine?”

  1. I am so sensitive to my environment that any change will be felt. I feel happier in the summer months when there are more hours of daylight. I feel happier after I take a brisk walk for forty minutes on a nice day when the air temperature is comfortable. I feel happier when I write lists of the circumstances that make me feel happier. Right?

    But happiness doesn’t feel like a conscious choice, like “gee, I think I’ll just decide to be happy today.” It is based in physiology. I have dysthymia, a chronic type of depression that periodically becomes dangerously bad, which is one of the reasons I don’t keep guns in my house.

    It’s frustrating to encounter the attitude that we are socially obligated to appear to be happy, as if happiness were a moral or spiritual issue. There are few things worse than feeling terrible and then having to feel guilty about feeling terrible, adding the failure to feel good to the long list of other failures, including the failure to breathe less oxygen than other people because I don’t deserve to be here as much as they do. Or something. That downward spiral does not lead to a good place. i’m better at recognizing when I’ve jumped into the whirlpool than I used to be, but it is still hard to get out of it – the sooner, the better, for sure.

    I am all for happiness whenever, wherever, and however much of it one can find, experience, or create. When I CAN”T find it, because my brain prefers to be a toxic swamp of doom, I will settle for creating something – paint a picture, write a story, clean my sink. Any action, even a small action, generates energy. It might not be joyful energy, but it’s the only way to launch a mental shift.

    A blind person doesn’t have the choice to just decide to see, and no one says she is a bad person for not being able to see. No one says she could see if she really wanted to, and is just being a pathetic drama queen.

    Understanding the full impact of the natural limitations of my brain is key to being able to find work-arounds. Feelings of shame and guilt over all the things I haven’t been good at, including looking happy, gets in the way of seeing what I truly have to work with. Which I think is kind of what you’re saying.

  2. SDWA… love what you wrote.

    When I’ve been in that spiral of sadness or anxiety, it’s been difficult, even impossible to recognize what’s going on. It’s real. The world is ending. Or things are indeed disastrous. When anyone tries to point out how lucky I am, “People are starving in Africa,” they sound like idiots. Clearly they don’t understand the situation!

    It’s why a coach or a loved one or a therapist can be so important. They get that this is what I’m feeling right now. They acknowledge how upset I am and how much the situation has upset me. They get it. And when I feel understood, it immediately starts to vanish. I’ve gotten it out of my head and into the world. Into words. Often lots of words, a gush of them. I remember sitting in a therapists office and talking non-stop for 48 of the 50 minute session. And with one or two questions the therapist was able to completely shift things and give me a totally unexpected perspective. Freeing. Sudden insight. Seeing the situation is indeed a problem. But it’s not everything. It’s not the end of the world.

    But that’s so hard. I know when someone I love is struggling I want to be upbeat, positive, encouraging, and get them to see it’s not so bad… I want to fix them quickly, rather than acknowledge that for them, at this moment, it does indeed feel like the end of the world.

    I thought that if I acknowledged how they were feeling it would only confirm their situation in their mind. What I’ve learned to do, albeit not as often as I’d like, is to acknowledge that they are upset, that this is painful for them, that it feels like the end of the world… But that’s different from, “Oh my god! You’re right! It’s the end of the world!”

    To be able to ‘get’ how they are feeling, without agreeing that the beliefs or thoughts that have lead them down this rabbit hole are indeed 100% valid, or the only possible way to view the situation.

    I suppose that’s why Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindful Meditation are so powerful. They ask us to consider other explanations or points of view, or to simply notice what we are feeling. You can be angry, or you can be noticing that, “Wow, I’m really angry about this… My chest is tight… I’m fists are clenched…”

    It works. I know. But the challenge is to be able to draw upon it when I need to.

    That’s a practice, a muscle to be developed. I’m getting better at it, but there are still those days… Sigh.

  3. Thanks Rick for another excellent blog.

    I found this statement particularly pertinent to me; “Once your thoughts start running away on you, rushing to the dark side, swirling from self-deprecating to self-destructive, and sending your body into overdrive, you’re no longer control.”

    For me; getting the diagnosis and knowing what my particular proclivities were, created a sort of automatic mindfulness. Which has really helped me get myself “back on the rails” most of the time…eventually.

    I still need to learn more about meditation and mindfulness, as currently it seems that is all I’ve done my whole life…IE: Ponder the how/why/when/where etc… of ever feeling or action I’ve ever taken. Second guessing my actions, thoughts, etc… I’ve tried to give myself time to think before acting, sometimes days, to avoid impulsive behavior…but I find that sometimes even after days of contemplation(meditation(?), mindfulness(?))…I still seem to over-react, over-compensate, and/or over-correct in a given situation.

    On laughter and medicine;
    I have found that when/if I can laugh at myself, for my impulsive, over-the-top, craziness. My rejection anxiety, and YES, my tendency to “Gush” out all over the first person who will actually acknowledge my existence. Does wonders in helping me stay positive, in the face of the overwhelming(at times) number of blunders I commit in a given HOUR. 🙂

    It has also been a great help, To have someone close(relationship wise, good friend, spouse), who will help you laugh at yourself, and not; as Rick suggested, “…try and talk them out of it.”, but will laugh with you, and help you see the humor of the “tangle of yarn” that you’ve managed to get yourself into…again.

    SDWA’s comments were also very interesting. This one in particular, as I have had a tendency to go “down the rabbit hole” at times myself… ” There are few things worse than feeling terrible and then having to feel guilty about feeling terrible, adding the failure to feel good to the long list of other failures,…”

    Again, I really feel that learning to laugh at yourself,(this may take some practice, and yes, you may have to fake it at first.), even when you’re feeling awful and/or know you have really messed up, or even if you think you have, helps greatly to calm your mind and put you in a better place to perhaps fix it, or let it go, and move on. Having someone who can perhaps instigate this by laughing about it, may at first be annoying(my wife does this for me)…but it really does help you change your perspective on the situation, if only momentarily, and allows you to possibly break out of the negative cycle of thoughts.

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