Dan Lippmann LCSW. Practical, Sustainable Happiness

Popping the Anxiety Bubble

My client, Sarah, is a woman in her mid-fifties with chronic heart disease. Using my Mood Switch Method, I taught Sarah how to substitute reassuring thoughts and “mind pictures” for the frightening thoughts that often flooded her mind. Then to increase her positive feelings even more, we focused on bringing laughter back into her life. “I used to laugh all the time,” Sarah told me, “before my heart problems showed up. I just can’t think of anything to laugh about anymore.”

I first asked Sarah to create lists of all the things that used to make her smile and laugh – all the memories, movies, people, songs, photographs, and books that evoked that response for her. Then I asked her to spend time each day with one item on her list (watching a movie, looking at photos, talking to certain people). I suggested that she think of this time as “smile therapy.” In less than two weeks, Sarah regained her ability to smile and laugh easily.

Even better, Sarah discovered a humorous way to counteract the fear she felt when visiting her doctor. Instead of listening anxiously as he talked about her illness, she imagined a huge, pink, bubble gum bubble, one so huge that it popped all over his face. Seeing this movie in her mind’s eye, Sarah was delighted by the way humor dissolved her stress and powerlessness. She realized that she could feel buoyant and happy despite everything, because she could evoke humor in any situation.

If you’d like to make the healing experience of laughter a regular part of your life, try listing everything that makes you smile, as Sarah did. Then use your list to give yourself some “smile therapy” each day. Watch a movie, look at old photos, or simply choose to perceive things from a humorous angle. By focusing on the happiness (or even silliness) that exists side by side with any challenges you may be facing, you’ll find your stress levels going down and your life satisfaction increasing.

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