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Laugh Your Troubles Away

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It’s been one tough day. Your boss chewed you out for something that was clearly her own doing and your computer crashed. The dry cleaner lost your favorite suit. Your car is making an odd but expensive-sounding noise. But wait–don’t pull a blanket over your head or reach for the martinis. Instead, have a good laugh.

“Well,” you might think, “It’s difficult to squeeze a chuckle out of a crashed computer. And my jerky boss is giving me a migraine.”

You’re right. No matter how badly the day went, you’re stuck with it. Can’t change the past. But even though the day might have been a bummer, there’s no shortage of research showing that how you respond to it makes all the difference in the world. You can always agonize over the injustices being heaped upon you. In fact, if you try hard enough, eventually you’ll feel depressed, exhausted, moody, irritable, and probably work yourself into a headache.

Or you can actually re-program how you respond to life’s inevitable annoyances. You can develop coping skills that prevent the fatigue and burnout following stressful events, and one of the best of these skills is to deliberately bring laughter into your life.
That’s right. If you consciously make an effort to expose yourself to anything funny, your whole attitude will slowly change. And definitely for the better.

But understand: laughing hard and often, and deliberately cultivating a sense of humor, doesn’t mean you’re not taking life seriously. There’s a difference between childish and childlike perspectives and behaviors. Psychologists tell us that having a childlike perspective is actually a mature and adult coping mechanism.

In addition to making us feel better about much of the bad stuff in our lives, having a sense of humor brings with it a host of recognized health benefits. Studies have shown that the physical act of laughing not only reduces stress hormones, it can also lower blood pressure, relieve pain, and strengthen the immune system.

With that in mind, here are some ways you can unleash your giggling inner child:
• Surround yourself with humor. Put a funny quote or cartoon on your bathroom mirror. Start a humor bulletin board at work. Get one of those “Joke-A-Day” calendar pads and tape up the best ones around your workspace. Actually buy the joke encyclopedia you’ve always seen in bookstores but never opened. Consult it often. If you hear a good joke, write it down for later retelling.

• Make a habit of it. Get into a weekly routine of watching your favorite funny sitcom. Locate humor websites on the internet and check them out each morning. If you’re renting a movie, make it a comedy. Visit one of those comedy nightclubs where young comedians work out their routines. Create humor rituals with your family. Have everyone at the dinner table relate the silliest event of the day. See the funny side of everything. Boss acting badly? Picture him in a prom dress.

• Learn to laugh at yourself. Speaking of sitcoms, begin to see your own life as a perpetual comedy (it probably is one already–you’re just too wrapped up it in to get the joke). Learn to laugh at all the sticky situations you get yourself into. If you find yourself getting excessively upset, review the trigger and see if something funny could have been squeezed out of the situation.

• Laugh often. When it comes to laughter, the more we do it, the more we have it. Don’t worry if people are staring at you–that’s half the fun.

• If you can’t find something to laugh about, laugh anyway. Sometimes, the mere act of laughing–or simply smiling–can change a mood. So even if you don’t feel like it, fake it. If you’re having a hard time getting started, just say “Hah!” from deep in your belly. Pause, then say “Hah! Hah!” Pause again, then say “Hah!” three times. Keep going until you’re stringing so many together that you’ve lost count–and self-control.

• Exaggerate the aggravation. If you pay attention, you can find humor in just about any irritating situation. And once you do, ham it up to the max. Did you car just give out? Call your partner or a friend and say you’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is the transmission’s shot. The good news is that you got a great price on a new Ferrari.

• Wear funny things in tough situations. Put on a party hat when you sit down to pay the bills. Wear a Groucho Marx nose, mustache, and glasses while driving through rush-hour traffic.

And finally, don’t postpone laughter. Give yourself permission to lighten up, starting right now. We often tell ourselves, “Someday I’ll laugh about this.” Why wait? You know how I rant about the pharmaceutical industry? Well, this little video from The Onion was sent to me, and in the spirit of a good chuckle, go watch.

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