When’s the last time you had a good laugh? Not just a chuckle, but one of those deep, from-the-belly, howling laughs? How long has it been since someone said or did something so funny you just couldn’t stop yourself from laughing hysterically? Do you find yourself smiling even remembering those times?
Laughter is contagious. And it heals. It distracts us from what’s hard in life and helps us focus on the fun and ridiculous. A good laugh brings in energizing oxygen to our organs and increases endorphins in our brain1. Laughter relaxes the brain and body. It enhances our immune system1. It can help diffuse tension in a relationship and create deeper connection. Laughing at ourselves can offset self-criticism and promote self-acceptance.
According to Marsha Linehan, even just “half smiling” can change our feeling towards something/someone we dislike3. Even better, “yukking it up” (laughing hysterically just for the heck of it) can change your mood, lighten the atmosphere, and get people around you laughing! Remember that coca-cola commercial I shared a few months back (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzp7Ov8wqPc)? Laughing can also be a strategy of “opposite action”, also described by Marsha Linehan, as doing the opposite of what you have an urge to do. So, when you have an urge to yell or cry, try laughing instead!*
What makes you laugh? A clumsy pet? Knock-knock jokes? Will Farrell? Gilligan’s Island reruns? A game of charades? That friend who relentlessly reminds you of the ridiculous pranks you pulled together in high school? Watching sleeping cats inadvertently fall off the couch in fast forward over and over and over again?
Find that thing. Find that thing or person that makes you laugh and spend time with it/them. Right now, we need laughter and relaxation and whimsy more than ever. We’re in the coldest month of the year AND a worldwide pandemic. So it may seem counterinteruitive, but try it! Take time to laugh – relax that body, distract that mind, boost that immune system and surrender to the hilarious. See how long you can laugh for before your eyes leak, or your mouth goes dry, or you have to rush to the washroom 😂.
See if it makes a difference in how you feel, physically and mentally. See if it makes a difference in how you respond to others and to the world. If it does, take a dose of laughter at least once a day. If it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. I’ll be back next week with more ideas and we’ll just keep getting through this together.
And after all that, if you’re still skeptical, maybe Ellen can inspire your laughter! Watch this! Laughter Is Good For Your Brain https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80hcQJuo6NE
Have a hilariously wonderful week,
References and Resources:
1. Stress Relief from laughter? It’s no joke. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456
2. Laughter is the Best Medicine. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm
3. Start with a Smile: Even a Half Smile will do! Available at: https://www.c-a-s-s.org/start-with-a-smile-even-a-half-smile-will-do/
*Please note: I am not encouraging denying or avoiding hard feelings by replacing with laughing. I recognize the importance of acknowledging hard feelings like anger and sadness, loneliness and fear, and want to encourage people to process these as they arise. Please see CASS’ You tube Video “5 Stages of Grief Video 4” posted on May 11, 2020 (available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWCYQ_W1rZo) where a “mindfulness of emotions” is practiced for the last 15 minutes of the video. Or reach out to someone you trust to share these hard feelings with.