Have you ever noticed that time seems to stand still when you laugh? That for a moment, you are not concerned with what is happening in the rest of the world? Laughter can bring us out of our heads, which is an easy place to get stuck when you’re feeling tense or stressed. But when you are laughing, you’re not planning for the future or analyzing the past. Laughing helps you to slow down and be in the present.
And that is just one of the many reasons why laughter is healthy! The moment you laugh, this releases (feel good) endorphins which causes your muscles to relax and reduces the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Laughter also calms your breathing and lowers your heart rate. Laughter thus is a perfect medicine for stress.
The other side of the story
The irony, however, is that stress can also cause people to lose their sense of humor temporarily. They tend to lose perspective when they are under pressure and have a hard time not taking the situation too seriously.
For that reason, “losing your sense of humor” is one of the 55 cards in the coach card set: Stress; do you recognize the signs? If you are or know one of these people, how do you make sure that you put the smile back on your face? That the endorphins get back into the fight against adrenaline and cortisol?
The good news is that a Georgia State University of Georgia found that you can can trick your body with simulated laughter. Whether the laughter is real or fake, the body makes no distinction. In both cases, the positive effects of laughter are equally present. They also found in the same study that “fake laughter” eventually leads to genuine laughter. So, fake it until you make it!
Three tips to regain your sense of humor
What is an excellent way to deal with the stress reaction mentioned above? What helps when you lose your sense of humor in situations where you are under pressure? Or how do you, as a coach, help someone who reacts in this way? Below you will find three tips that help to put things into perspective:
Bring humor into the conversation
If you notice that you are looking at things with a pessimistic outlook and it is challenging to come up with funny situations, get yourself inspired by the people around you. Ask them the most amusing thing they have experienced in the past day? In this week? In their life?
Create a humor album
What were the moments that you laughed hard? The moments that, when you recollect them, put a smile on your face? Browse through the photos on your phone. Every time you come across an image or video that reminds you of funny or happy moments, save it in a separate album. Whenever you are under pressure in the future, open your humor album and browse through it to kick-start the endorphins.
Earlier, we talked about the benefits of simulated laughter. There are several methods available to practice this. You can find videos about laughter yoga and information about laughter meditation on the Internet. If you search on these keywords, you will soon come across various tips and videos. My favorite is the Ted talk on laughter yoga by Liliana DeLeo. Do the ‘brain wash’ and ‘mental floss’ with her to experience whether laughter yoga might be for you.
An alternative to laughter yoga is laughter meditation. Below you will find an example. It is an exercise I found on the website of Deepak Chopra.
10-Minute Laughter Meditation
You’ll start by stretching your body. Then you’ll practice laughing and end with silence. Follow these simple steps and reap the benefits of this healing practice:
1. 1-2 minutes: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and stretch your arms high above your head. Rock your body side-to-side from your torso, then bend over and touch your hands to your feet. Next, massage your jaw and yawn at least two times to loosen your mouth and relax the muscles in your jaw.
2. 3-5 minutes: Find a comfortable position to sit or stand. Start by slightly smiling and then begin laughing without too much effort. Move to deep belly laughs. (Hint: try different types of laughs to encourage your genuine laugh to come through. Even if it begins as a forced feeling, most people find the forced laughter catalyzes authentic laughter in no time.)
3. 3-5 minutes: Sit or lie on the floor in stillness and silence. Be mindful of what comes up for you—how your body feels, emotions that present themselves, and thoughts that arise. (Optional: share what comes up with a trusted friend or write it down in a journal.)