Laughter: A Recovery Tool We Can’t Afford to Ignore

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Although addiction is no joking matter, recovery is not a license to forever lose our sense of humor, either.

When we think of early recovery and treatment, we think of therapy sessions, holistic therapies and self-help groups. But recovery is so much more than treatment! Recovery is about life; it’s about living each day to the fullest. Along with all the familiar recovery and treatment tools, we should never discount the immeasurable benefits of a good ol’ fashion belly laugh — for both recovery and life.

Steering Clear of the Negativity

The road to relapse is typically paved with negative self-talk, a lack of support and an overall “doom and gloom” mentality.

Addiction does come with its fair share of the unfunny, and chemical dependency does affect brain chemistry, making it more difficult for the brain to naturally produce “feel-good” neurotransmitters like endorphins.

However, we can jump-start our brains, prompting them to manufacture and release those feel-good chemicals again.

Much like exercising, laughing also prompts the brain to release these happy endorphins. Along with fighting depression, laughing is also linked to healthier immune systems, lower blood sugar, better blood flow and better sleep.

Laughter is Meant to be Shared

Science also shows that laughing is indeed contagious. This characteristic alone makes laughter a highly beneficial recovery tool.

For most, the peer support we receive while in recovery is the foundation our sustained sobriety. We need other, like-minded individuals to identify with our experiences. Laughing with someone is a form of empathy, understanding and identification. It’s an audible, physical response that indicates a psychological connection with another.

Recovery is What We Make of It

Sometimes in recovery, we meet “dry drunk” curmudgeons and hear stories depressing enough to thin hair. However, recovery is not a death sentence or an all-you-can-handle smorgasbord of boredom.

Quite frankly, some accounts of our lives during active addiction are flat-out hilarious…and it’s okay for us to laugh at them. At some point, we all have to give ourselves permission to laugh at our mistakes and move forward.

Although telling glamorizing stories is always counterproductive, taking recovery too seriously (relentlessly seriously) is equally self-defeating. At some point, a solemn declaration of sobriety must be replaced with simply living a joyful, sober life — a life with laughter.

The Measure of Sober Success

In recovery, we utilize a range of tools to sustain our sobriety. But plainly speaking, the litmus test of successful recovery is measured by our ability to live a fulfilling, happy life without depending on drugs and alcohol.

Even if you don’t feel like laughing today or tomorrow, it’s important to eventually open yourself up to the funnier side of life. Addiction may not be a laughing matter, but sustained sobriety is far from a matter of misery.

Additional Reading: 5 Ways Gratitude Can Change Your Life

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