Use your birthright and laugh our way better!
Laughter is your birthright, a natural part of life that is innate and inborn. Infants begin smiling during the first weeks of life and laugh out loud within months of being born. Even if you did not grow up in a household where laughter was a common sound, you can learn to laugh at any stage of life.
In today’s ‘instant fix’ culture, it isn’t uncommon for people to search for pills or other quick and easy ‘fixes.’ As individuals, we can’t change change the culture, but we can change how we interact within the culture. For instance, if we think of medicine as anything that makes us feel better; then, medicine no longer must come as a pill or chemical but it can be a person(s), activity, or even laughter. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, conflict, and chronic pain. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.
With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for dealing with daily challenges, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health. Laughter has been researched and it has been found to quickly effect the body in many ways. For instance, did you know that:
- Laughter relaxes your entire body leaving tense muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes
- Laughter also boosts your immune system which improves your resistance to disease
- Laughter decreases harmful stress hormones resulting in:
- less stress, reduced anxiety, improved mood
- Laughter increased production of immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies
- Laughter decreases harmful stress hormones resulting in:
- Laughter triggers the release of endorphins which promote an overall sense of well-being and can temporarily relieve pain
- Laughter protects the heart by improving blood vessel function and increases blood flow which can help protect against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems
Laughter makes you feel good. Besides an enhanced sense of well-being, humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss. Laughter is more than a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives you the courage and strength to to find new sources of meaning and hope in your life which leads to higher life satisfaction. Laughter really is contagious. Just hearing laughter primes your brain to smile. Laughter has been found to promote group bonding, help defuse conflict, enhances teamwork, and strengthens relationships. Who couldn’t use some of that?
Research shows there is a well-supported link between laughter and mental health. For instance, laughter dissolves the distressing emotions because when you laugh, you can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad at the same time. Laughter also helps you relax and renew yourself which is very important to self-care and preventing burnout. Perhaps most importantly, humor shifts our perspective which allows us to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective also creates psychological distance which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed when you have a lot on your plate.
When we laugh with (not at) other people, a positive bond is created or strengthened. Each of these bonds has the potential to act as a buffer against stress and disappointments. The more people we have a bond with AND the stronger these bonds are, the more effective our social bonds are at increasing our resiliency against stress. While laughter is not the only factor that increases resiliency to stress, it is one of the fastest and most enjoyable to create.
Next time you are stressed out, watch a funny movie with a friend or family member and you will feel your anxiety and stress give way to laughter. Favorite funny movies, a promising new release, one of your children’s movies you find funny - any of these works, as long as you get a chance to truly laugh. Belly laughs are the most beneficial, but all are important.
Incorporating opportunities to laugh into your life on a regular basis is important. Some other ways to incorporate laughter into your life - before or during high stress times: watch a funny movie or TV show, go to a comedy show, read the Sunday funny pages, seek out people you think are funny and spend time with them, check out the humor section in your local or online bookstore, host a game night with friends, play with or adopt a pet to play with (pets have their own health benefits, CLICK HERE for more), go to a “laughter yoga” class, goof around with children, make time for fun activities (bowling, mini golf, karaoke, etc.), be INTENTIONALLY SILLY, maybe host a Game Night at your church with whatever combination your congregation would enjoy.
In addition to creating/strengthening social bonds and increasing stress resiliency, shared laughter is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Laughter unites people during difficult times. Being spontaneous helps you get out of your head and letting go of defensiveness allows you to see humor which helps you forget judgements, criticisms, and doubts. Consciously let go of your fear of holding back and holding on so you can allow yourself to let your deeply felt emotions to rise to the surface to be expressed.
Does this sound challenging? Developing our sense of humor can feel that way sometimes, the key is to not take yourself too seriously. Don’t be the tight-jawed sourpus who sees life through a seemingly deathly serious lens where nothing is funny, ever. Granted there are events in life that are sad (ie: death of a loved one) and not occasions for laughter. But most of life occurs in the gray areas of ordinary life giving each of us the choice to find the humor and laugh or not. If you are in a habit of getting things done, or not seeing the humor in things like of us are, here are some ways to change that:
- Laugh at yourself. Share your embarrassing moments. The best way to take yourself less seriously is to talk about times when you took yourself too seriously.
- Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them. Look for the humor in a bad situation, and uncover the irony and absurdity of life. This will help improve your mood and the mood of those around you.
- Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screensaver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun.
- Keep things in perspective. Many things in life are beyond your control—particularly the behavior of other people. While you might think taking the weight of the world on your shoulders is admirable, in the long run it’s unrealistic, unproductive, unhealthy, and even egotistical.
- Deal with your stress. Stress is a major impediment to humor, laughter, and good health.
- Pay attention to children and emulate them. They are the experts on playing, taking life lightly, and laughing.
When you “become the problem” and take yourself too seriously, it can be hard to think outside the box and find new solutions. But when you play with the problem, you can often transform it into an opportunity for creative learning. Playing with problems seems to come naturally to children. When they are confused or afraid, they make their problems into a game, giving them a sense of control and an opportunity to experiment with new solutions. Just because we aren’t children anymore doesn’t mean we can’t take everyday problems and turn them around through laughter and play.
Interacting with others in playful ways helps you retain this creative ability. In fact, as laughter, humor and play become more integrated into your life, you will become more creative as well as less stressed. Humor takes you to a higher place where you can view the world from a more relaxed, positive, creative, joyful, and balanced perspective.