05/15/2013 01:22 pm ET | Updated Jul 15, 2013

Laughing Your Way to Mindfulness

"Comedy is defiance. It's a snort of contempt in the face of fear and anxiety. And it's the laughter that allows hope to creep back on the inhale." -- Will Durst

When anger, stress, or loneliness has you in its grip, you believe that you are living in the moment. Right now, at this very moment, you are miserable.

If you are able to go deeper, however, you may find that a lot of your pain isn't actually coming from what exists in the here and now. Instead, it's a product of a continuous loop of memories of the past and worries about the future.

When I was going through cancer, I didn't know anyone, myself included, who was able to completely shut down the painful memories and worries of cancer. But I did discover a way that helped get me closer once in a while.

One day, during an especially stressful period, my mind was racing with worry, emotional upheaval, fear about my upcoming surgery, anxiety about losing my breast, etc., etc., etc. The noise in my head was deafening. Suddenly, out of nowhere, this popped into my head:

"Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?"

I was shocked, but I just had to laugh. It was the theme song from SpongeBob SquarePants, a cartoon show I watched with my children. I grew up with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and love kids' cartoons. They're silly, irreverent and completely stupid, and that's why they're funny. Somewhere in my brain, I knew I needed relief from all of the stress I was under, and SpongeBob came to the rescue!

If mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present, what is more mindful than laughter? Something strikes you as funny and you laugh. If you analyze it, it's just not funny anymore. For that moment, the laughter and the joy of being in the moment are all you are about. You're like a child again, able to enjoy the moment without quantifying or analyzing your reaction.

Also, studies show that the simple act of laughing increases endorphins, the feel-good brain chemical, which helps decrease physical pain. You really do feel better after a good laugh.

Whenever I am stuck in upset or worry, I look to laugh with friends or watch a funny movie. If I seriously need to giggle, I call my sister Amy, who always breaks me up (and out of my low spirits). Laughing is a relief, separating me for the moment from worries. More than that, however, it "allows hope to creep back on the inhale."

As Mark Twain put it, "The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter."

If you suffer from depression, no funny movie is going to help lift your spirits. But, if you are stressed and worried, give yourself a laughter break. Let me know in the comments below and over at my Facebook page if you have ever used laughter to relieve your stress and anxiety.

For more by Debbie Woodbury, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.

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