“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion, to the futility of thinking and striving anymore. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward — and since I can start thinking and striving again that much sooner.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday
The next time you have a really stressful day, it’s your job to find one thing about your day and reframe it so you can laugh at it. Can you do that? I couldn’t imagine doing it either. Finding humor in everyday situations takes practice, and when you spend a lot of time dwelling on stress everything seems serious and urgent.
We all know stress has long term health consequences, like heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and yet we let it consume our lives. We even say stress is helpful and keeps us at the top of our game. But that’s not giving yourself enough credit. You keep yourself at the top of your game — stress just tries to make you miss all the good stuff. What is the good stuff? Success, gratitude, and joy, just to name a few.
Meanwhile, laughter lowers stress hormones and releases endorphins in the body. It reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Laughter creates a more optimistic environment that promotes resilience and good vibes — as the saying goes, “Smile and the world smiles with you.”
There are several small steps you can take to make laughter a bigger part of your day.
- Start Early.
Almost as soon as you wake up there is something to smile about: Your bed-hair, your entire left leg which is totally asleep, the toothpaste in your beard, the dream about the headless cow, the wall you almost walked into. Sleepy people do funny things and, if you can find something to laugh about when you’re tired, you’re starting your day off right.
- Don’t be mortified, be self-compassionate.
Are you easily embarrassed? Next time you feel that redness creeping into your cheeks, turn to laughter. You can’t take yourself too seriously. People make mistakes all the time. Any slip of the tongue or clumsy faux pas is recoverable — always has been and always will be. Realize that all you really did is give yourself something to laugh about. Think about what you would tell a friend in your shoes, “Mistakes aren’t mistakes, they’re opportunities to learn — or in this case opportunities to laugh.”
- Fake It to Make It.
Walking around with a smile, even when you can’t think if anything to smile about, leaves you poised to slip into laughter. Don’t worry if it makes you feel vulnerable. You’re not. I used to think, “I don’t want to be the woman with the big dumb smile.” But that’s the misguided attitude of a person who is immune to feeling joy.
- Go to the Comedy.
There are some people in this world who’ve made it their jobs just to make you laugh. Comedians are out there working every single night — sadly for not very much money — to hear the sound of glee. All you have to do is go, sit, and be entertained. It’s an affordable gift you can give yourself on a regular basis and it makes laughter a significant part of your life.
- Practice Finding the Funny When You’re in Your Worst Mood.
It’s the equivalent to snapping a rubber band to stop anxious thoughts. Give yourself the job of finding something to laugh about when you’re having a terrible day. You’re stressed, sad, frightened, or heartbroken, but you can always take a step back and reframe your train of thought. For instance, I was in the middle of my first big breakup. I couldn’t eat or sleep because I was consumed with heartache and guilt. I was sprawled out on the floor listening to the famously moody album “Disintegration” by The Cure. “This can’t be helping,” I said aloud and then couldn’t help but burst into giggles.
We get so caught up in thinking about how we should feel. “I should be happy.” “I should be satisfied.” “If I just have this one thing, it would end all my negative feelings and stress.” Leave self-criticism out of it. Empty your mind and open yourself up to humor. The more you do, the easier it becomes. You soon realize that humor is everywhere and it’s the padding that makes us resilient in the face of life’s less funny moments.