Having a good sense of humor definitely helps cope with stress and can lead to your overall improved health. The actual act of laughing is an exhale, releasing your breath and the tension you may be holding on to. Sharing humor can be a bonding experience, connecting you with others and reducing the feeling of isolation. Joining others in finding humor in situations is a way to normalize your experience and can help stop the feeling of being overwhelmed by stressful things.
The ability to laugh when you are stressed, sad, angry or depressed can pull you through trying times. But if you are feeling more stressed than usual these days, you may have to reexamine how easy it is for you to find the humor in the day-to-day, national, and global situations.
If you are feeling overly stressed, it’s NOT a good time to revisit Schindler’s List or spend too much time on social media if your feeds are full of news, opinion, and media platforms. However, just avoiding the things that can amplify your stress isn’t enough. There are things you can proactively DO that will improve your ‘stress-hardiness.’
- Check the mirror. Are you smiling? While many people think their resting face is a smile, there are studies that reveal that the breakdown is 1/3 of the population smiles when at rest, 1/3 have a neutral expression, and 1/3 of us frown! So check the mirror and no matter what you see in the reflection, smile. Even if it feels phony, the benefits aren’t. Sometimes, a fake smile leads to a genuine smile.
- Step back. You may be too close to the situation and may have lost perspective. There is a maxim in comedy that while it’s not funny when YOU slip on a banana peel, it is pretty funny when you see someone else slip on a banana peel. It’s not funny to you because you are too close to the situation. When you view things from a different (and more removed) perspective or give things some time, the situation can feel less catastrophic.
- Reach out. Spend time with people who make you laugh. Sharing frustrations and worry with the goal of finding the humor in the situation (rather than seeking a solution or joining in a shared pity party) can lighten the mood. It also serves as a good reminder that you are not alone. If you can turn things into a game, you shift the focus (How many times in 24 hours does your social media feed have a kitten picture? A SNL mention? Use the word nuclear?)
- Tee up a screen. Watch the movies, TV shows or video clips that make you laugh. If you have fond memories of laughing at Monty Python or Mel Brooks films; if you still keep up with The Simpsons, or can spend too much time on YouTube watching people do dumb things or puppies try to learn how to cope in the world, make a concerted effort to do that more often.
- Don’t isolate. Invite others to join you on your quest for more daily joy. Sharing laughter can help you but it can also help others – which in turn helps you!
It may be a little harder to find a funny focus right now, but you can do something about that. If you don’t think that’s possible right now, reach out to a friend who makes you laugh and make plans to get together. Then show up with your clothes on inside out.
That should provide you with a good conversation starter.