It is no secret, as you look around, that most of us have a heaviness about us. Not the kind that comes from just eating a large pepperoni pizza, but the kind that feels like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. You can see it as impatience which sets in at a long line at Starbucks or in traffic when someone rushing cuts numerous people off just to get ahead of a few cars. You can see it on the sports field as parents yell at their kids or pace back and forth. You can see it at work when budgets are off or markets are down. So much stress and so little lightheartedness.
We know stress is not good for us. Stress releases cortisol, a natural enemy for our physical body. We cannot sleep, we start projecting, and we lose hope when we are feeling overwhelmed or heavy with life’s burdens. So what helps besides getting clear on your priorities and living more mindfully that most of what we carry or worry about is nonsense? Laughter! Nothing feeds our souls and has the power to offset pain more than a good belly laugh.
Find the Kid Inside
If you are feeling like life is too much right now, you probably think you have nothing to laugh about or no one in your life is funny. Don’t worry. I am going to give you a plan to pull yourself out of it.
First, remember back to when you were a kid without all the heaviness on your shoulders. Your only mission on a summer night was to be home by dark and make it for dinner. You were adventurous and light. You likely spent time with friends giggling over just about anything – maybe it was the clerk at the drug store with blue hair or the two boys that just walked by with Playboys hidden. You noticed things… you laughed… you had fun. It was your biggest priority!
Now, because we have so much on our plates we’re more likely to spend more time complaining than laughing. We can change that by being more intentional. With the internet and Netflix it is easier than ever to find things that make us laugh.
So where do you start? There are two areas you can change that will cultivate more lightness and laughter. First, rather than beat yourself up for any mistake or humanness you have you are trying to grow through, replace it with laughter. Simply shift your words and thoughts from “I can’t believe I just did that. What is wrong with me?” to “Holy crap! That was hilarious! I just lost it. I wish I had it on video.” On this journey we are not shooting for perfection, only progress so your willingness to see your struggles as funny rather than stupid will drastically change how you feel.
Second, as you look at your life have a lens that frames things differently. Start looking for things that are funny rather than just sitting with frustration. You can do this in two ways: through your own experiences and by priming the pump. So either look for humor in your own life or bring more humor in through movies, videos, or seeing a comedian.
Starting with your own life you will simply make a shift. You set your intentions before your day starts committing to laughing at yourself more. I had a great opportunity for this recently. I received an e-mail from one of the managers who works for me with some information about a transaction. I opened it while on a conference call that was wasting my time. Rather than take the time to read any of his prior emails, I fired back questions for him. My perception was that he wanted me to make the decision for him so my emails came across that I was annoyed. We went back and forth about five times before he poked his head into my door. I was still on the call so waved him off, but before he left he just said, “My earlier email asked you to approve it so I’m just wondering why you are questioning me.” I sat there for a moment before I opened the earlier email and just laughed. He probably thought I didn’t trust him. In my email I had said, “I will not make decisions for you . . . you need to manage this aspect of your business” when in fact he had already made the decision, but I missed it. A few lessons here for me. First, I am committed to not multitasking and this reminds me why. Second, I should start at the oldest email because so much communication is sequential and I could miss something. Third, I am human and will still get triggered so it is best to view making mistakes as reminders that life is funny. I apologized publicly to him as I shared this story in a group coaching session because rather than pretending managing triggers is easy, I have learned to be open about them.
Replace the Frame
The second part is framing your life differently. If you compare people’s lives to a movie genre, most would be a drama or suspense thriller and a few they might even say their life is a horror film. Your job is to shift and call it a comedy. Recognizing you are the director of your life, you must start capturing more funny scenes. And if you don’t have enough, you must create them – seek out movies, events, or people that fill you with laughter. The only way for life to be lighter is to look at it differently. You have a choice.
Laughter is truly the best medicine and will improve your physical well-being as well as your mental health. If you feel your life is too serious, make an effort to work on it. Add laughter and fun to your vision for 2018. I can assure you, all your relationships will change as well. You can still be successful and fun at the same time.