De-stress Your Life

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2017 9 Feb

an image of a frog peeking out of the mouth of a statue of a smiling pig

Want to know the leading cause of stress? Here’s what one perceptive observer has concluded:

“Reality is the leading cause of stress for those in touch with it.”

Or how about this:

“I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.”

Or this:

“Cheer up, the worst is yet to come.”

Or even:

“When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’”1

A little humor can help break up the stress we feel, easing the intensity of the moment. Perhaps it can even do more than that. Norman Cousins, former editor of the New York Evening Post, famously claimed that nonstop doses of Vitamin C, coupled with a diet of humorous books and movies, healed him of ankylosing spondylitis, an autoimmune disease that causes pain and stiffness, primarily in the spinal joints. Though his claims were never clinically verified, it’s clear that all those Marx Brothers movies he watched had a positive effect.

“I made the joyous discovery,” he said, “that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep. When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion-picture projector again, and, not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free sleep interval.”2

Laughter can at least help put our problems in perspective, breaking the cycle of worry and anxiety. If you’re in the market for some good laughs, try a few of these classic films to get you started: Groundhog Day, Big, Duck Soup, The Pink Panther, or The Trouble with Harry. Even better, make sure you get your fix of babies and toddlers, whose laughter is infectious, even if your “fix” merely includes getting a few good laughs from YouTube.

  1. Quoted in Elizabeth Scott, “Funny Stress Quotes to Brighten Your Day,”
  2. Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient (New York: W. W. Norton, 1979), 43.