The classic movie (and now musical) Mary Poppins is filled with memorable songs.
There’s “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” There’s “Jolly Holiday” and “Step in Time” and, of course, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
With all those wonderful tunes, it can be easy to forget some of the other gems in the film like “I Love to Laugh.” In this scene, Mary, Bert, and the children visit Uncle Albert—who they find floating near the ceiling due to his inability to stop laughing. Laughing, it seems, provides a real sense of lightness, and the lightness leads to floating. Soon enough, Bert and the children have joined the fun, though Mary Poppins, at least at first, does not approve of these shenanigans at all.
But we would argue that Uncle Albert is on to something. Laughter can inspire a feeling of lightness. And while that lightness might not lead to floating, it can, in fact, give a lift to your sobriety.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of laughter for those in recovery from a substance use disorder.
Laughter Has Short Term and Long Term Benefits
Lest you think laughter is a laughable solution to pretty much anything, it turns out that no less an authority than the famed Mayo Clinic vouches for the power of a good giggle.
Short-term Benefits of Laughter in Recovery:
- The intake of large helpings of oxygen-rich air
- The stimulation of your muscles, lungs, and heart
- The release of the feel-good hormones known as endorphins in your brain
- The ignition and cooling of the stress response—increasing and decreasing your heart rate and blood pressure, which leads to feelings of relaxation
- The firing up of your circulatory system and an increase in muscle relaxation, which contributes to a sense of calm
This sort of immediate stress relief can be truly wonderful—and so laughter would be a support to your sobriety even if its benefits stopped there. But they don’t.
Long-term Benefits of Laughter in Recovery:
- Supporting your immune system as stress and illness-fighting neuropeptides are released
- Encouraging the body to produce its own natural painkillers
- Increasing personal satisfaction and self-esteem
- Improving the ability to effectively manage difficulties
- Forging connections with other people
- Lessening the symptoms of depression and anxiety
All of these improvements to your mental health and your physical health support your hard-won sobriety.
Lots of Ways to Look for Laughs
So how do you get more laughter into your life? There are, of course, plenty of options. From daily comic strips to humorous podcasts, from situation comedies to romantic comedies, from live comedy shows to clips of comedians on YouTube—there is funny content most everywhere. You might have to hunt around a bit to find the stuff that consistently makes you laugh (and which isn’t grounded in references to drugs or alcohol), but as we have seen, the effort can really pay off.
In fact, calling it effort is probably a little silly. Looking for things that make you laugh should probably be a pleasure.
Still and all, we suspect the best kind of laughter is inspired by good times with friends and family rather than by any of the forms of media we have mentioned. Sure, a comedian can coax a crowd into uproarious fits of laughter for an hour or two. But friends who can consistently make us laugh—even when times are tough—are a more consistent source of mirth. Plus, you have the opportunity to spread the benefits by inspiring some laughs yourself.
Substance Use Disorders are No Laughing Matter
When you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, the odds are pretty good that you don’t feel much like laughing. Oh, sure, early on the substances might have provided a feeling of euphoria and everything and everyone might have seemed quite funny indeed. But over time, the euphoria fades and a whole series of unpleasant—and unfunny—side effects replace it. Try to quit, and you find yourself overwhelmed by withdrawal symptoms. When you are stuck between that particular rock and hard place, there is very little reason to laugh.
But regaining your sobriety is possible—and when you do, you can once again find the joy in life. At Wooded Glen Recovery Center in Indiana, we offer medically supervised detoxification, a robust rehabilitation program, and a continuum of care that provides resources and support as your recovery journey begins. When you are ready to leave drugs or alcohol behind, we are ready to get to work—and that is no joke.