|Posted on February 2, 2017 at 1:30 AM|
Happy Bill Murray Day!
If I could pull off an early April Fool's joke on all of you by claiming Groundhog Day is my fourth least favorite day of the year, I wouldn't hesitate to. But when you are the person people say shouldn't have been a professional comedian for a living that does limit your options when trying to make people laugh. Natural comedy isn't my strongest suit, unless there is a blue moon outside (the Blue Collar Comedy Tour helps too). I do have my Mom to thank for sharpening my sarcasm skills over the years, though. Trust me, it gets better with age and makes you worse than sour grapes before you even turn forty. I swear, it feels like I am making up for all those times in school when I never had a good come-back remark when I was teased and picked on.
A good belly laugh goes a long way. I'm sure many of you are familiar with the phrase about an apple a day, so you may have also heard that a laugh a day keeps the psychiatrist away. While I was thinking about what to write for this post, I thought of that same phrase and just had to slap myself silly. What was I thinking? I go on and on, and on, and manage to forget one of the most effective ways I manage my mental health on a daily basis. The ability to use laughter and humor to your advantage, in appropriate ways, truly is an underrated coping mechanism. A fun starting point would be to rent or buy a copy of the film, Groundhog Day starring Billy Murray. The scene with him driving the pick-up truck and the bug-eyed groundhog behind the wheel is a classic.
I respect the history of it, particularly for the Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, but I can't say I'm a big fan of the day itself. Like the Tooth Fairy (and the same film starring Dwayne Johnson), I have long since discovered that neither are true. Old Man Winter doesn't bow down to a groundhog that does or doesn't see his shadow. Today inspired me to remember Bill Murray's timeless comedy from the film and to liven up the mood more. You may think laughing is just a part of you, whether you are good at it or not. Yet, the great thing is with some good practice and minimal effort humor can develop into a true secret weapon against mental illness. Especially against prolonged depression and similar mental health conditions that cause you to be overly negative.
After a number of years of practice, I can laugh appropriately at a lot of things even when my own situation hasn't changed much or still creates considerable depression. For much of the time I don't even realize how easily it comes for me to use humor as a coping mechanism, despite not being able to gauge the effectiveness. I am still here, so that must serve as some amount of proof I would hope. If you can also master what is called self-depreciating humor, which is picking on yourself in ways that can make you laugh, you can really prove that laughing a day keeps the psychiatrist away. Here are some examples from http://www.wikihow.com/Sample/Self-Deprecating-Humor:
I walk two miles a day. One to the donut shop, and one home.
Exercise doesn’t kill you, but why take the chance?
I’m on that new “seafood” diet. If I see food, I eat it.
Do you know that feeling when you meet someone and you both just fall madly in love? Yeah, me neither.
I’m in shape. Round is a shape, right?
Someone asked if I knew a good plastic surgeon? Would I look like this if I did?
Notice how these examples can be fun but aren't counter-productive or inappropriate. In my experience, being this skilled at humor takes the control away from your mental illness symptoms and puts it in your hands to use when you need it most. Back during the mid to late-nineties when I had my first bout of depression, had I been more skilled with humor I would've been less negative if I thought a day was depressing. Laughter isn't a cure-all, but it will definitely help soften the lows when they really pull you down. For some of you, you probably already do this quite well and don't even know it just to show how easy it is. If you have trouble with developing your humor, watch quality comedy like the Blue Collar Comedy Tour or stand-up comedians. Before you know it, the laughter will be so contagious you will feel better in no time.
And for all of the truly talented comedians in the world, including actor Bill Murray and late actor Robin Williams, thank you for making life so much easier to deal with because of your genuine mastery of humor.