“I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable even hopeful.” – Bob Hope
Occupy Sanity Tool (OST): Laughter
In a year, seemingly filled with many reasons to cry, I have been using the OST: Laughter daily. It might seem crass or cruel to even think of laughing with all the shock, pain, trauma, suffering, angst, and grief, to name a few feelings we’ve experienced. Yet, I learned in my 20s that I needed something to counterbalance my seriousness and my growing tendency to be depressed.
While there were some “good reasons” for my going to the depths of despair, I knew that my health depended on me finding a way to lighten up or at least not stay at one end of the continuum for too long. I developed a Laughter Practice (without even knowing it) by regularly finding ways to lighten up and even LOL.
Benefits of a Laughter Practice
“To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.” – Charlie Chaplin
What makes each of us laugh is subjective. One thing is evident, though, the same biological benefits apply to everyone. When I began creating my Laughter Practice, there wasn’t as much research on the health benefits. I had, however, an innate understanding that I felt better during and after laughing.
Take a moment to remember the last time you had a good belly laugh—the kind when your sides ached, and you had tears in your eyes.
In a short instant, you were able to experience many health benefits without much effort. According to the HelpGuide article “Laughter is the Best Medicine,” you boosted your immune system and released the feel-good hormones known as endorphins, which “… promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.” You probably relaxed your whole body as research has shown: “A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.”
There is also the added benefit of enhancing relationships when we laugh together, which supports “…physical and emotional health.”
The authors go on to say that:
“There’s a good reason why TV sitcoms use laugh tracks: laughter is contagious. You’re many times more likely to laugh around other people than when you’re alone. And the more laughter you bring into your own life, the happier you and those around you will feel.”
Finding Your Funny Bone
“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” – Charles Dickens
One of the best ways to create a habit is through repetition. You can begin to develop your Laughter Practice by using a few of the other OSTs in your Toolbox. Start by choosing one of the OSTs: Mindfulness, STOP or Pause to center and ground. From there, pull out the OST: Surrender because for the OST: Laughter, you might need to give up some control!
1. Smile. Science tells us that smiling and frowning takes nearly the same amount of muscles to produce; however, frowning appears to be harder to do. So try doing what’s easiest, and as Nat King Cole wrote in the song “Smile,” “Light up your face with gladness.” Besides, a smile is contagious. As Ann Serrie writes in her article The Power Behind Your Smile :
“What matters to me is that the act of a genuine smile releases endorphins, making us feel better. So even if your mask covers your smile, the smile is still doing its magic and making you feel better. Your light will shine brighter through your eyes and energy field.“
2. Be around people who are fun and playful. One way I do this is to be with others who might have a quirky sense of humor or find ways to see life from a light-hearted or humorous perspective. For example, this year, a friend and I had weekly video chats. We discussed the impact of world events and found ourselves starting to feel our angst increase. While we weren’t discounting anyone’s pain & suffering, we felt the need to end on a more upbeat note.
One day she suggested a song from the 1969 TV show Hee Haw which we both remembered made us laugh. Since then, we sing “Gloom, Despair, and Agony On Me” to remind us that there is another perspective and not to take ourselves so seriously…ALL the time. No matter what comes next in our day, we leave the conversation lighter. Now it’s your turn to find what makes you LOL.
3. Appreciate who you are, what you have and do. Here’s where you use the OST: Gratitude 2.0. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to create your daily Gratitude Practice. Write notes and post them on your mirror, write in a journal or notebook, or choose a Gratitude Accountability partner to contact regularly. Focusing on your life’s delights and blessings generate more positive feelings, bringing you closer to humor & laughter.
4. Move toward laughter and humor. Here you can use the OST: Imagine to return to your innate childlike innocence and imagine ways to increase your humor/laughter quotient. As HelpGuide suggests:
“More often, people are very happy to share something funny because it gives them an opportunity to laugh again and feed off the humor you find in it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “What’s funny?”
5. Pretend. If you’re still having trouble finding something that tickles your funny bone, science and experience show us that simulated laughter can achieve the same results. There are several options like Laughter Yoga and Meditation, and even Laugh Therapy. Here are some links to videos that will get you laughing and shifting into a higher vibration. I challenge you to NOT laugh after watching them!
Liberating Your Laughter by Celeste Greene of Laughter Yoga Atlanta at TEDxCPW
Phillip & Holly Try Out Laughter Yoga This Morning
TEDMED Live Talk by Dr. Madan Kataria
I encourage you to use this OST right away. Go ahead. LOL! Let yourself feel lighter.
If you’re still unsure here is some additional information about the many benefits of laughter.
Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke by the Mayo Clinic Staff
7 HEALTH BENEFITS OF LAUGHTER by E.C. LaMeaux
Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash