Staying Positive and Laughing Your Way Through Recovery


Discovering both humor and the brighter side of life, while in the darker parts of treatment, are sometimes a key ingredient in the recovery process. While the subject of recovery is not in itself a joking matter, finding humor can help you rise out of those dark times stronger than ever. As substance use disorders are becoming more recognized among the medical and mental health communities, increased research on the subject will hopefully identify many benefits to individuals involved in treatment and currently in recovery.

Research has shown, according to the Open Nursing Journal, that communication and trust between individuals can be improved through the use of humor. Humor helps people relax and relate to one another. Other times, humor can be used to alleviate the stress of a situation, which might show that another person cares when they try to make another person laugh. Trust between two people can develop as they enjoy one another’s company. Most relationships, if not all, thrive on strong communication and trust, especially in maintaining recovery.

Health Benefits of Humor

How humor is defined differs from person to person. What one individual finds funny, another may not. Nevertheless, it is something people constantly seek out. To many individuals, humor is a characteristic of importance among their peers, friends, and romantic relationships. It’s commonly believed that having a good sense of humor can lead to an overall improved state of physical health.

Despite the lack of research regarding the beneficial effects of humor in the treatment of substance use disorder, we are hoping this trend will change in the years to come. Improved physical health can include many different benefits, such as:

  • Less stress
  • Improved immune system
  • Better cardiovascular and respiratory function
  • Enhanced release of “happy hormones,” endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine
  • Can improve memory
  • Increases learning and problem-solving capabilities

With these health benefits in mind, remember that there are different types of humor that people respond differently to. The kind of humor you respond positively to will affect the way it influences your recovery. Some people respond better to funny or witty jokes and banter, while other forms of humor can be aggressive and manifest as sarcasm or a form of mockery. Knowing which type of humor appeals to you is key.

Looking at Humor Theoretically

Research has classified humor as a type of coping mechanism, due to its ability to help with life struggles. Three “theories of humor” help to serve as a foundation for the potential implementation of humor as a treatment for substance abuse disorder. These theories are:

  1. Arousal Theory: the idea that laughter works to release tension and energy built up in the body, especially during social interactions
  2. Incongruity Theory: implies that individuals sometimes laugh at inappropriate times in a way that pokes fun at or finds the irony in a particular situation
  3. Superiority Theory: focuses on people’s need to feel better about themselves in comparison to others, or their past selves

Similar to the types of humor someone responds positively to, some theories may be more beneficial to some than others, and that’s okay.

The Power of Positive Thinking

There is not only power in positive thinking; there is science in it too. Another article from the NCBI examines the implementation of “Positive Psychology” to treat substance use disorder. This research is still fairly new, gaining some criticism from professionals in the field. However, there has been progress, thanks to the addiction recovery movement, in understanding the positive-psychological science behind positive interventions. These applications of positive psychology can weave a greater sense of kindness, generosity, and mindfulness into a recovery process.

The research on positive psychology describes three “kinds of lives,” which include:

  • The Pleasant Life: focusing on good feelings of the past, the present, and the future, in a way that relates pleasure to other things in life, instead of substances
  • The Engaged Life: focusing on a person’s positive traits and character strengths and uses them as a focal point to hold onto during their recovery process
  • The Meaningful Life: focusing on bringing meaning to one’s life through service to others. This could be through volunteer work, contributing time or donations to charitable organizations, and even helping friends and family with challenges and struggles in their personal lives

Many often forget that humor and positive thinking can be integral instruments in treating substance use disorder, not to mention a very long list of other co-occurring disorders like anxiety or depression. Humor can be used as a coping mechanism or a tool that releases tension from the body makes light out of tense social situations and improves your overall bodily health and state of mind. By putting a positive mindset into action, you’ll not only be able to bring a sense of peace to yourself, but you’ll also be a positive change in the lives of others. Staying positive while on the road to recovery will allow you to pull yourself out of the dark times, even if it requires a helping hand. At Lakehouse Recovery, we want to be that helping hand, we want to help you emerge from this dark time, and we want you to feel loved and supported as you take the steps toward your recovery. We believe in a balance of professionalism and positive support. Call (877) 762-3707 to learn more about how we can help you on the road to recovery.