Mental health struggles are as unique as the person dealing with them. How can help ourselves and loved ones?
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
With so much of each day spent working with and around other people, it can be easy to get stuck in the monotony of routine; wake up, go to work, exercise, pick up the kids, go grocery shopping, make dinner, and the list goes on and on. While monitoring stress levels in America, the American Psychological Association reported that more than 8 in 10 respondents felt at least one emotion associated with prolonged stress in the prior two weeks, with anxiety, sadness, and anger being the most common feelings. Removing day-to-day stressors isn’t always an option, but laughing your way through them can be!
Laughter is the best medicine; while this might sound like a clever trope grandma used to make the best of a bad situation, there is legitimate scientific backing to it. Laughter can strengthen the immune system, boost mood, minimize pain, and provide a barrier to the damaging effects of stress. With March 19 set aside as national Let’s Laugh Day, it’s time to take laughter to the next level.
Laughter truly can be a quick fix. It reduces stress and increases energy. Whether a home is filled with lots of noise and activity or its quiet and low-key, laughter can be key in shifting a person’s perspective. Joking about a problem can create a psychological distance from the issue, which helps diffuse the immediate conflict and minimize a person’s feelings of being overwhelmed. Sometimes finding something to laugh about can be as simple as turning on a funny movie or YouTube clip. At times, it can be difficult to find something to laugh about. Luckily for those struggling to smile, the human body is unable to distinguish between spontaneous, genuine laughter and simulated laughter. This is the perfect time to institute the idea of “fake it until you make it.” Laughter yoga gets the body in a position to laugh, and what starts as simulated laughter often ends as the real deal, spontaneous laughter.
The average American spends 90,000 hours of their life at work. Regardless of the industry being worked, there are bound to be high-stress moments and interpersonal conflict. With so much time spent together, creating a positive culture can mean the difference between a job well done and a person deciding to give their two-weeks-notice. Dr. Pragya Agarwal notes, “A positive workplace culture improves teamwork, raises the morale, increases productivity and efficiency, and enhances retention of the workforce. Job satisfaction, collaboration, and work performance are all enhanced. And, most importantly, a positive workplace environment reduces stress in employees.” With that understanding, laughter is an amazing tool in the workplace. According to Business Insider, “evidence suggests that laughter builds trust, forges bonds among colleagues, helps people cope with stress, and inspires creativity and problem solving.” In short, laughter is the secret weapon for building great teams. How, then, can teams make laughter a priority?
Laughter is a social signal. Without a funny stimulus (TikTok, YouTube, TV, books, radio, etc.), people are close to 30 times more likely to laugh when they are in a social setting than when they are alone. A recent study by Preventive Medicine even suggests that laughing with a good friend can even help reduce the risk of cognitive or physical disability by over 30% for people 65 and older. “Laughter with friends brings health benefits such as stress release, improvement of immune functions, and a sense of social connectedness,” said lead author Yudai Tamada at Nagoya University in Aichi, Japan. Interestingly enough, Psychologist Robert Provine has posited that laughter allows humans to synchronize with each other, particularly in the workplace. Bruce Daisley perfectly summed up Provine’s study with the following: “Just as birds sing to each other, or dogs in neighboring backyards bark at each other, or wolves howl together, so humans laugh to connect with one another, to achieve synchronization” Laughter, then, acts not only as a temporary respite from stressors, it builds bridges between people.
Self-enhancing humor is a humor style associated with having a good-natured attitude toward life or being able to find amusement in life’s difficulties. Those who are able to laugh at themselves tend to be able to maintain a healthier perspective on life while minimizing stress levels.
Trackinghappiness.com suggests the following tips to be able to laugh at yourself more:
Now is the time to prioritize well-being by making time to infuse humor and laughter into each day. With an emphasis on consistent laughter, society will be better equipped to change each day for the better.