Working hard to meet life and career goals often require a serious focus. But it’s important to take time to laugh along the way.
Do you often feel consumed by your daily tasks and responsibilities? Does the heavy weight of it all make it difficult to let go and enjoy what you’re doing or who you’re with?
When we become focused on doing, we can sometimes lose sight of being.
When you take life too seriously, you can develop an unclear view of what’s worth your time and energy. You might find that you spend less time laughing and more time being busy.
When you get caught up in the seriousness of it all, you can miss out on the joyful and happy aspects of life.
If you find it difficult to find moments of joy or think of yourself as too serious, consider trying these strategies.
Focus on the good
Yes, your flight was delayed, and you may be late for that meeting, but perhaps you spent more time with your family because of it.
“Focusing on the unexpected benefits rather than the outcome can make a big difference,” Bernstein says.
Ask yourself: “Will this matter 5 years from now?”
While life does have serious moments, there’s a lot we can let go of and accept for what it is.
“Remembering the idea that if something won’t matter 5 years from now, don’t spend more than 5 minutes worrying about it can be a helpful approach,” Bernstein explains.
Recognize and appreciate joyful moments
Think about the times when things didn’t turn out the way you planned but you adapted.
“Feel proud of yourself for figuring it out — those are the moments that make life more enjoyable,” Bernstein says. “Moments when you were surprised, didn’t give up, and then figured it out. You may have even come out with a good story along the way — that’s the beauty of life.”
Remember that you’re not alone
Keep in mind that no one else has life figured out any better than you.
“You weren’t given an instruction manual, and you can only do the best you can with the information you had at the time,” Bernstein says. “So, don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re a work in progress.”
Identify your negative thinking patterns
Remember that thoughts aren’t facts.
“Identify and challenge your negative rumination cycles that are on repeat,” Wolkin says. “What are you preoccupied with and what cognitive distortions might be getting in the way of thinking more accurately?”
Don’t engage in comparison
Comparison can lead to feelings of unworthiness.
“Comparing ourselves to others steals any semblance of joy, as we start to live life as if it’s a race and become too serious about acquiring things and people that don’t actually accentuate our life,” Wolkin says.
Create a toolbox of coping skills for times that feel stressful
While stress is inevitable, it’s how you respond to it that matters.
“When we’re stressed, we tend to take life too seriously,” Wolkin explains.
“If we’re chronically stressed, we’re at risk for mental health challenges, high blood pressure, and so on. Try taking a nature walk, engage in a mindfulness practice, or start journaling.”
Ditch the perfectionistic thinking
Setbacks will happen, but trying to be perfect can make the setbacks seem more overwhelming.
“Embracing your perfectly imperfect human self can help release a lot of pressure to live up to unreachable expectations,” Wolkin explains. “It’s OK to make mistakes, and making them doesn’t mean you’re not enough.”
Consciously create opportunities to laugh
Find the humor in day-to-day life.
“Instead of news shows, watch comedies or funny videos, or hang out with funny people,” Wolkin says.
American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard once said, “Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out alive.”
What did he mean? Many of us agonize over the smallest decisions. We spend hours ruminating over an email we sent or a comment we made.
Hubbard reminded us above that time is a precious gift that you can’t get back. So, try not to waste even a moment of it.
We all face the demands of our busy lives. Our daily schedules are overrun with meetings, deadlines, and family responsibilities. On top of that, we try to squeeze in running errands, cooking dinner (or, calling in for delivery), and a quick workout.
Seems like there’s not enough time in the day to “stop and smell the roses.” We’re often so busy being busy that it’s hard to find a moment to laugh or enjoy the moment.
With all you have to do each day, you may wonder, “what is there to laugh about?”
But laughter has numerous health benefits — from reducing stress to boosting your spirit and improving how you relate and connect to others.
When you take life too seriously, you may:
- constantly worry about the small things
- not joke around with friends, family, or co-workers
- rarely have time to unwind
- be more strict with others and yourself
- avoid activities out of your comfort zone
- constantly explain yourself
- feel like you’re competing with others at work or at home
If these behaviors become extreme or begin interfering with your daily life, consider speaking with a healthcare or mental health professional. They can offer guidance on the next steps.
Taking life too seriously can have negative impacts on your well-being.
You may lose sight of what’s really important
Prioritize what truly matters.
“If we take life too seriously, we lose sight of what actually needs our serious attention,” says Jennifer R. Wolkin, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist based in New York City. “How can we parse out what is serious if we think it all is!”
It can be counterproductive
Letting the worry and stress take over is a waste of time.
“Taking life too seriously usually leads to more worrying, and worrying isn’t productive,” Wolkin says. “Constant rumination on our regrets of the past or what we’re trying to control in the future only leads to suffering.”
You can miss out on all the positives that life has to offer
This comes back to the power of gratitude and choosing to focus on the positive, not the negative.
“When we take life too seriously, we lose out on the opportunity to experience a gamut of emotional experiences, including joy,” Wolkin says.
“If we’re constantly immersed in taking life too seriously, we don’t make space to stay awake to the beauty of life that’s right in front of us.”
It can damage your relationships
If you always take things seriously, you may not be enjoyable to be around.
“When we take life too seriously, we might have trouble connecting with people,” Wolkin explains. “People who take life too seriously sometimes come off as unfriendly or unapproachable.”
It’s a waste of mental energy
To put it simply, you’re missing out! You can choose to see your experiences through a more positive lens.
“Taking life too seriously takes a lot of mental bandwidth that can be used to engage in more meaningful experiences in life, including time with family and friends,” Wolkin says.
You’ll feel more joyful
Are you consumed by your job and daily responsibilities? Do you feel like you’re a victim of your circumstances?
“If we shift from believing that life happens to us and start to see it as happening for us, our lives can begin to feel more joyful and less burdensome,” Natalie Bernstein, a psychologist and therapeutic life coach in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, explains.
“Once you move away from thinking your purpose is your job or viewing life as a series of set stages you have to accomplish, you can start to see life in a new light.”
This may require becoming more present and reframing your perspective.
Life isn’t a problem to be solved. The beauty lies in the unpredictability and waking up each morning with an open heart and open mind to all the day has to offer.
Try starting each day with gratitude. Focusing on what you’re grateful for can take you out of a serious mindset.
Also, choose to be present. This is a good way to experience happiness and fulfillment.