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The Benefits of Laughter in Recovery

With all the serious business of recovery, it’s important to look for the humor. Treatment starts with detox, which can range from unpleasant to awful. Then you have to confront difficult emotions in therapy and hear tragic stories in meetings. All this is necessary for healing, but it also gets a bit heavy. Looking for the humor in things, particularly your own problems, is a great way to find some breathing room.

Laughter is good for everyone, in recovery or not. It reduces stress and improves immune function. It makes you more relaxed and positive. Laughter promotes social cohesion. There’s a great scene in the show Boston Legal about this. Alan Shore sees his girlfriend laughing with another man. Distraught, he tells Denny Crane about it and Crane says, “Are you sure they were laughing? Are you sure they weren’t just kissing or something?” Laughter is infectious and we tend to like the people we laugh with.

At its core, laughter is about discovering unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated things, or discovering something you thought was dangerous turned out to be fine. Both of these traits are useful in recovery. Just as a joke often works by deftly reframing a situation, you can overcome many of your emotional challenges by reframing them or taking a different perspective. And for those challenges you can’t overcome, you can at least feel better about them by watching Airplane!

Often in recovery, you will feel awkward trying new things. You may not be used to opening up to other people. You might feel embarrassed going to the gym for the first time or trying to learn how to paint. The ability to laugh at yourself is a useful way to get through the early awkward stages. Did your first painting turn out badly? Of course it did. You can either throw a tantrum and burn it, or you can laugh and try again. If you can’t quite bring yourself to laugh at your painting, do an image search for “Jesus restoration” and try not to laugh at that one.

Make it a point to laugh every day. Watch a funny show or movie, or watch comedians on YouTube. Comedians are especially good because some of the best have made a career of laughing at their own stupidity. The next time you do something dumb, if your inner monolog sounds more like a stand up comic than an abusive parent, you’re making progress.

Don’t just be a consumer. Practice looking for the humor everywhere. Many of our personal tragedies are only tragic because we take ourselves so seriously. Try taking a different perspective and seeing if things still look so bad. Look for the absurdity. You should be cautious about laughing about other people’s problems though–they might not be there yet.

Laughter lowers stress and brings people together, so be sure to find time to laugh during recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.