We can prepare ourselves for stress with coping techniques, we can eliminate stressors from our lives whenever possible, and we can surround ourselves with social support–we absolutely should do these things, in fact, as they can help us to build resilience to stress and improve our physical and emotional health in the long run. But sometimes we feel stressed despite our best efforts, and at these times, maintaining a sense of humor about the stress can be an amazing line of defense. Developing a sense of humor about life’s challenges is an effective coping technique that can actually lead to better overall health as well as simple stress management. That’s because, aside from the health benefits of laughter(which are numerous and significant), having a sense of humor about life’s difficulties can provide a way to bond with others, look at things in a different way, normalize your experience, and keep things from appearing too overwhelming or scary. Properly developed, a good sense of humor can keep people and relationships strong.
Here’s how to develop yours:
Time Required: Ongoing
- Start With a Smile.
- Studies show that having a smile on your face can release endorphins, which make you feel better, and can lead you to actually feeling more happy (rather than just looking happier). Even if the smile is fake, the benefits you will experience are real! Also, a fake smile leads readily to a genuine one. If you are able to put a smile on your face, the laughter will come more easily, and the stress will melt more readily.
- Take A Step Back.
- When you’re in the middle of a difficult situation, it can seem overwhelming. If you try to see your situation as an observer would, it’s often easier to recognize what’s funny. For example, Lucy Ricardo (of the television classic, I Love Lucy) may have found nothing funny in getting locked in a freezer, having a fight with a fellow grape-squasher in a vineyard, or getting drunk while filming a television commercial for Vitamedaveggemin, but watching these scenarios can be hilarious. Trying to see your current situation through a new lens is known as reframing, and it works! (Read more about how reframing works.) Sometimes imagining how you would look in a sitcom can be the secret key to finding the humor in a situation.
- Value The Extremes.
- If your situation seems ridiculously frustrating, recognize the potential humor in just how ridiculously frustrating and annoying it is. In your imagination, take the situation to an extreme that becomes even more ridiculous until you find yourself amused. For example, when you’re waiting in a long line at the store, you can imagine that hours pass, then days, visualizing yourself accepting visits from loved ones from your new home in this ultra-long line, holding your children’s birthday parties in aisle seven so you can be there to enjoy them…you get the picture.
- Have A Funny Buddy.
- Find a friend with whom you can laugh, and let the relationship work for you! You can each share your frustrations, and laugh about them in the process. Even when your friend isn’t there, you can lighten your mood in a dark situation by thinking about the retelling that will come later.
- Make It A Game.
- You can have a ‘most annoying boss’ contest with your friends, or try to count how many times the same potentially frustrating event happens in a day. (“I was cut off in traffic 7 times today—I’m almost up to 10!”) This works well for predictable or repetitive annoying situations that you can’t control; you can begin to value them in their own special way instead of letting them upset you.
- Watch Funny Shows and Movies.
- One of the factors that drive the popularity of shows like Modern Family or movies like the classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is that they take somewhat universal situations that many people find frustrating and push them a little further, pointing out the silliness of it all. Realizing that some universally annoying situations are actually funny, can help you endure them with a smile—even if it’s a wry or ironic smile.
- Read Funny Books.
- Read humorous essays like those of Dave Barry or David Sedaris, both of whom are able to take events, ranging from annoying to upsetting to even tragic, and find the humor—each in his own unique way. Also recommended are the humorous tidbits in Reader’s Digest, as well as classic humor books like Jerry Seinfeld’s SeinLanguage. Reading others’ humorous interpretations of life can help you find your own style of seeing the world in a different light.
- Join Funny Clubs.
- Years ago, when Oprah had a show rather than a network, she did a segment on Laughter Yoga that intrigued me, and I researched a club on my own, finding it to be a terrific place to enjoy a good laugh. Whether you’re taking the laughing seriously or laughing at the silliness of it all, taking part in the exercises of laughter yoga with other humor-participants can be a very effective way to get back in the practice of getting some more giggles into your day.
- Getting your friends on board with laughter can be an excellent way to make the laughs come more easily. They can help you find the humor in life, and you can help them. Share your thoughts, share your jokes, and share this article–you’ll all be laughing in no time!