Updated: Jul 10, 2020
I spent last week with my sisters and as usual, I laughed a lot.
It made me realize that our world has been feeling heavy lately and I need to do a better job of balancing it with a lot more laughter.
One morning I work up at 6 am and I couldn't go back to sleep. My little sister had the same experience so we ended up on the front porch swing visiting. It was one of those magical mornings when you are in a beautiful place, talking with someone you love and there is no rush in the moment.
I was completely content and present.
My sister entertained me with the story of her husband packing their car for our sister's trip. My brother-in-law is a professional UPS driver so he does this for a living, but even with his vast experience, the job was an immense task. My sister is an amazing storyteller and her description of the task, the comments being made by my sisters and other brothers-in-law, and how it all unfolded had me rolling with laughter.
I hadn't laughed that hard for a long time. It felt cleansing.
This was one of many moments when I was full long belly laughing. Nobody can make me laugh as hard as my sisters can (much to my husband's chagrin).
It made me realize that even though all of my sisters have many stresses in their lives the ability that we have to make each other laugh and smile is a big part of the gift of our relationship.
Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter helps us remember life is 50/50, 50% negative, 50% positive. I remember laughing hard at my father's funeral. There was nothing happy about my father dying but retelling stories about him brought us so much joy. Laughter in times of stress cues our brains to look for positives in times of crisis. This helps our brain not spiral into darkness.
Laughter is healthy because it stimulates endorphin. Real laughs are what it takes to trigger the chemical. You have more power over your laughter than you may think.
“We don’t laugh because we are happy. We are happy because we laugh.”-William James
According to one study, the average four – year – old laughs three hundred times a day while the average adult laughs about fifteen times a day. With all the obligations, stresses, and activities in our world sometimes we adults get out of the habit of laughing.
To increase your laughter, you need to retrain your brain with new awareness to help you find the lighter side of life:
Look for daily evidence - How is this funny? I guarantee something funny happens in your life daily. Is your brain trained to see it? Daily life can sometimes feel like a grind but if we can look for the humor it will help you eliminate some of the feelings of stress that you might be feeling daily. Laughter is a great mental health tool that you should use daily. Start training your brain daily to get a new awareness of how things can be viewed as humor. Give yourself permission to laugh more.
Humor is a choice - I have a daughter who is newly licensed and is enjoying her freedom of being a new driver. Recently my husband reminded her of the rules for driving but the same day she posted an Instagram story with evidence of her breaking the rules. She of course lost driving privileges for 2 weeks but her post brought a lot of humor for my husband and me. People are going to do crazy things (especially teenagers). In my daughter's instance, John and I could have got angry but we choose to find her teenage humanness humorous! When we can be entertained by people's actions vs. feeling judgment for them, we actually create more connection and love for them.
Be willing to be vulnerable -be willing to laugh at yourself. When you can laugh at your embarrassing moments you give permission to others to love you for your crazy. We will all send out to the world some crazy and when you don't take your follies too serious it gives others (and yourself) the opportunity to love you exactly where you are. When I fell into the swamp infested with alligators it made it a lot less scary for my sisters when I came out laughing. Even though it was terrifying, I was able to find the humor in it. My ability to laugh at myself set the tone for the rest of the afternoon for my sisters. We were able to experience the afternoon pleasantly even though we had experienced a crazy moment.
Count your Blessings-I believe I am able to laugh more with my sisters, not just because they are pretty hilarious, but because I feel such gratitude that I get to spend time with them. That feeling of gratitude keeps me present in their presence. I also notice this with my children and husband. When I stop thinking about all the things I need to get done or the things they should be doing and I just let myself experience the moment with them, my heart becomes lightened. Sometimes you need to literally make a mental list of things you are grateful for in that person. The simple act of considering the positive aspects of your life will distance you from negative thoughts that block humor and laughter.
Examine what you are taking so seriously in your life and ask yourself is it really benefiting you to continue to take it that seriously. Start the day with the thought...today I am going to laugh.
For me, in order to have a lighter heart, I need to do a lot of self-coaching and get coached frequently because I get caught in my own crazy. If you need help cleaning up your thinking, I would love to help you examine your thinking and help you see that there are options with the story you are currently telling yourself.