stress relief

Laughter as Medicine

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Is laughter the best medicine? Whoever could have created this proverb may have been onto something. Everyone enjoys a good laugh, whether from a joke or sheer happiness. Research has found that it may have benefits other than simply entertainment. Laughing is a lighthearted way to reduce stress levels, among several other benefits.

Laughter is a natural way of producing endorphins, which act like hormonal painkillers, and can increase one’s pain threshold by up to 10 perfect (but don’t test it!). It also provides good exercise and reduces the risk of respiratory infections. What’s more, laughter can lower blood pressure and stress hormones, as well as to reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Dr. Hunter (Patch) Adams, the founder of the Gesundheit Institute, initiated the creation of numerous care clowns whose mission is to bring love and laughter back into hospital environments. Laughter is attainable for everyone. Being able to laugh frequently does not mean one has to be happy all the time; that’s impossible. When stressed or upset, hearing a well-rounded joke or viewing a particularly amusing Internet meme is the way to go.

In short, laughter has not only mental but also physical benefits. It is just another source of simple happiness capable of leading to a happier life. Wellness does not have to be so serious all of the time; an amusing break from the daily grind we all go through will do anyone good. Life is not always a drama — there’s plenty of comedy too!

How many psychotherapists does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one, so long as the lightbulb wants to change.


“Laughter Therapy as Stress Relief.” SkillsYouNeed,, 2019,

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How Podcasts Boost Mental Health

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

I often recommend listening to podcasts to my clients as a tool to help distract their ruminating thoughts are podcasts. Podcasts are in the same realm as music in that it can take you out of your head and help you focus your thoughts on something outside of yourself. What podcasts do differently though is broaden your mind to new information and sometimes even help you feel less isolated in the world. Here are a few reasons why listening to podcasts can boost mental health:

1. It can relieve anxiety

We as humans are less likely to do an activity when it causes anxiety or fear. Thus, we might avoid the situation so that we do not have to experience discomfort and distress. A healthy distraction, such as a podcast, can actually be a way to gain an initial sense of relief from our anxiety and reduce the overall intensity of these symptoms. If something is bothering us, listening to an engaging podcast can be an adaptable way to handle a stressful moment so we can work through an uncomfortable situation. Focusing on something less anxiety-provoking can also give us a sense of control over our anxious thoughts so they do not take command over us.

2. It can increase mindfulness

Mindfulness is about is being in the moment and doing one thing at a time. While listening to an engaging podcast, we can practice mindfulness by solely focusing on the sounds and words being said. By doing this, we do not allow other thoughts or worries to come into our mind. Mindfully listening to a podcast can prevent thoughts from completely flooding and overwhelming us.

3. It creates empathy and connection 

Many people on podcasts disclose their own personal struggles, which can help a person feel less alone in their own personal struggles. In one podcast I listen to, the hosts frequently discuss their struggles with their mental health and the benefits they have received from therapy. They regularly receive feedback from listeners about how helpful it is to hear that another person is going through the same experience as themselves and how they appreciate their candor. There can be comfort in knowing you are not alone in managing your mental health.

There are currently over 750, 000 podcasts focused on many different issues. There are podcasts that are primarily focused on mental health and some that are focused on a specific subject and comedy. The following are some of the podcasts that I currently recommend to my clients:

The Mental Illness Happy Hour An in-depth conversation with a comedian and his guest with a focus on mental health, traumatic life experiences and negative thinking. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

Candid conversation between two comedians about the personal struggles that come with being a parent. The hosts also frequently discuss the personal struggles and triumphs that come with their own mental health journey. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

The Hilarious World of Depression 
Conversations with top comedians about their struggles with depression and anxiety in an attempt to end the stigma that surrounds these disorders. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

Note: Some of these podcasts use an explicit language so if this is a concern for you, look for the “E” symbol next to a podcast episode to see if it falls in this category.


Agarwal, P. (2018, June 18) Seven Podcasts for Mental Health and Well-Being. Forbes. Retrieved from

Beck, A. (2017, August 3) The Use of Distraction in the Treatment of Anxiety. Retrieved from

Fitzsimmons, G. & Rosen, A. Childish Podcast. Podcast retrieved from

Gilmartin, P. The Mental Illness Happy Hour. Podcast retrieved from
Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Winn, R. (2019, June 1). 2019 Podcast Stats & Facts (New Research from June 2019). Podcast Insights. Retrieved from

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ASMR: Good Mood Via Goosebumps

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

I learn a lot from my kids. Recently, I found my teenage son and his friends viewing videos together. Much to my surprise, what I observed was a great example of a self-care exercise. Upon inquiring about the content of said videos, they told me it was called ASMR.

I had never heard of such videos, so naturally, my interest was piqued. After some research, I found that ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and that it may actually be a useful tool in maintaining well-being and happiness. According to writer (and mother of five) Crystal Ponti, ASMR is a “physical sensation characterized by a tingling feeling that typically starts at the scalp and then travels down the spine.” This can otherwise be known as frisson, a sudden feeling of excitement or even tingling, often manifesting itself in the form of goosebumps.

One may wonder how ASMR correlates with mental health. To begin with, it is brought out by visual, auditory, or touch stimuli in the body that promotes a calming response in the central nervous system (Ponti). A 2015 study in the journal PeerJ reported that, following ASMR, participants experienced “feelings of well-being, improved mood, stress and anxiety relief, and relaxation” (Coleman). Those who experienced ASMR found that they felt more calm and positive. Additionally, it has been reported to induce temporary relief of chronic pain, stress, and depression. Some have claimed that sounds such as typing on a keyboard give small sensations similar to the feeling of love. It puts people in a “womb-like intimacy” (James).

Examples of ASMR inducers include:

  • Whispering (the soft sound triggers soothing tingles)
  • Tapping (this rhythmic trance can aid in sleep and relaxation)
  • Scratching (most commonly practiced on hard surfaces, it can be soft or hard tapping; either produces a nice sensation)
  • Blowing (especially in the ear, the sound and feeling of a gentle breeze can be very relaxing)
  • Page turning (turning pages offers a delicate sound one may find pleasing to the ears)
  • Concentration (while unexpected, concentrating on a single task can make one feel good)
  • Eating (while potentially gross, the sound of chewing food can be immensely satisfying to some)
  • Hand movements (visual appealing, sends viewers into a relaxing and meditative state)
  • Plastic crinkling (think bubble wrap)


The sensations triggered by ASMR have become quite popular among youth and adults alike. And for good reason. It is particularly useful in terms of self-care and is readily available to anyone who may be interested. If you’re struggling with finding relief from anxiety, depression, stress, or if you are having trouble sleeping, ASMR is worth a shot!


Ponti, Crystal. “What Is ASMR, and How Can It Benefit Your Kid’s Mental Health?” Motherly, 12 June 2018,

Coleman, Erin. “Does ASMR Ease Anxiety?” Benefits Bridge, United Concordia Companies, 5 July 2017,

James, Paul. “How ASMR Can Relieve Anxiety.” Voices of Mental Health, AMS Creative Studio, 25 July 2018,

“15 Of The Most Common ASMR Triggers.” LOLWOT, 17 Mar. 2015,

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