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You know how they say that laughter is the best medicine? As frivolous as that may sound, there actually is some truth in that.
Research confirms that having a strong sense of humor helps you live longer, even if you have poor health. That’s because laughter releases endorphins that boost your mood and counteract the negative effects of stress, like compromised immunity. Even better, these feel-good chemicals raise your ability to ignore pain, making genuine laughing a fun tool to manage chronic pain.
Laughing out loud also supports your heart health, by increasing your heart rate and the amount of oxygen in your blood as well a lowering your blood pressure. And let’s not forget how humor lightens your burden, strengthens your relationships and helps you deal with distressing emotions.
These benefits are no joke, so why aren’t we laughing and smiling more?
Well, probably because life can get pretty serious. Not only do we have to deal with paying bills, filing taxes and a never-ending list of chores, but you may also struggle with chronic health problems, relationship troubles and caregiving duties. When you’re hurting, it’s hard to see the humor in life or make time for fun nights with friends.
But laughter can actually be a helpful coping strategy when life gets tough. In the 1970’s classic ‘Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient‘, Norman Cousins describes how he’s suddenly struck by a crippling connective tissue disease. To battle this incurable illness, Norman decides to create his own action plan for recovery, by taking high doses of vitamin C and self-prescribed laughter therapy. He watched a continuous stream of comedies to cope with the unbearable pain, until his condition gradually improved over time.
Now obviously, having a sense of humor can’t take away all your pain and heartache, but it is a free, fun and accessible way to support your physical and mental health.
Would you like to bring back the laughter in your life too? Take a look at these 19 fun ideas to have more humor and playfulness in your life, even when you’re in pain.
19 Fun Ways to Bring More Laughter in Your Life,
Even When You’re In Pain
You don’t have to laugh out loud all day to start noticing the positive effects on your health and happiness. Having a humorous outlook on life, a smile on your face and a sense of playfulness can all make it easier to cope with hardship. Here are 19 fun ideas to support your body and mind through tough times.
01. See the humor in every situation. Of course, when you’re grieving all you’ve lost, you won’t feel like laughing, and that’s ok. But when you are able to smile through your tears, observe the world through different eyes. Look for the funny moments and laugh at your own missteps. Notice humor in language and openings for puns. It may take time to get into that mindset, but honestly, I’ve had major laughs in hospitals and physical rehabilitation centers with people who get that there’s a fine line between tragedy and comedy.
02. Don’t skip the comic strips when reading the newspaper. You could also pass up on the mostly depressing news and get a copy of your favorite funny graphic novel instead.
03. Watch stand-up comedy. Do you have a favorite comedian? Now’s the time to explore new stand-up performers or shows. Thanks to streaming services, you can watch Kevin Hart, Ricky Gervais, Amy Schumer and Ali Wong from the comfort of your own home.
04. Spend more time with kids and animals. They are masters at putting a smile on your face. If that’s not an option for you, add cute pet videos and contagious baby giggles to your digital diet.
05. In that spirit, bring out the kid inside of you and get silly. Build a pillow fort, have a water balloon fight, draw rainbows or climb the monkey bars, whatever makes you smile inside. Unleashing your inner child can be a great way to counteract the overwhelm from adulting.
06. Read funny books. Have you ever bursted out laughing in the middle of a story? Whether you love the British humor of David Nicholls or Sophie Kinsella, or prefer more dark depression jokes like Hyperbole and a Half, there’s a humorous read for everyone.
07. When talking to your friends, don’t just share your sorrows, but make room for laughter and silliness too. With the right people, you can both feel heard and understood, and take your mind off your pain for a while. So take a trip down memory lane and reminisce the hilarious moments you’ve shared. Crack inside jokes or play one of the funny games mentioned below. Because like Victor Borge once said, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.”
08. Play hilarious games. Take a shot at the “kitty-powered version of Russian roulette” with Exploding Kittens, have a blast uncovering secret identities with Codenames or go for a good old round of Twister. Not only will you have a fun time and boost your mood, but shared laughter also works like social glue.
09. Make a joke jar to cheer yourself up on days when you’re feeling ‘meh’. Let all your housemates write down their best jokes so you can surprise each other. You could check out these 101 short jokes to get you started.
10. Watch feel-good movies. If you find typical comedies a little too lame for your taste, perhaps feel-good flicks like Amélie, Forrest Gump, About Time or We Bought A Zoo can put a smile on your face. You could also sing and dance along to uplifting musicals like LaLaLand and Pitch Perfect, or rewatch classics like The Wizard of Oz, Mathilda, Big or your favorite Disney movies to bring back happy childhood memories.
11. Adopt a playful state of mind. Even when you’re in pain and feeling weighed down by your responsibilities, don’t take everything too seriously all the time. Make room for light-heartedness, excitement and child-like curiosity too. Even scientists agree that almost any situation can be approached in a playful manner. Playfulness is a state of mind in which you let go off constraints and use your imagination to explore new ways and solutions. You can start to feel more playful by having enough unscheduled time, trying new things, following spontaneous ideas or gamifying your daily life.
12. Have a collection of funny memes. Follow social media accounts with hilarious GIF’s or exchange amusing memes with a friend or sibling who enjoys them too. You could save the best ones on your phone for when you need a quick pick-me-up.
13. Enjoy books from famous comedians. Read funny anecdotes, sharp musings and silly stories from great story tellers, like Yes, Please by Amy Poehler, Bossy Pants from Tina Fey, or Born A Crime by Trevor Noah.
14. Turn your tragedy into comedy. Obviously, losing a loved one or living with chronic illness is not a laughing matter. But sometimes, a healthy portion of dark humor and self-mockery can lighten your load, if only for a little while. After all, as Ryan Fan eloquently puts it: “Sadness facilitates humor as much as humor eases the sadness.”
15. Transform movie night into laughter therapy. Swap your usual thrillers or blockbusters for a movie that will guarantee some giggles. No matter which kind of humor you enjoy – Jim Carey’s slapstick , R-rated comedy like The Hangover-trilogy and Bridesmaids, Crazy Stupid Love romcom or the absurdity of Monthy Python – you’ll get your daily dose of those feel-good endorphins.
16. Try laughter yoga. Want to take this humor thing seriously? Laughter yoga teaches you to laugh when there aren’t any funny triggers around, because laughing changes your body chemistry and sets you up for happiness. Science confirms that putting on a smile can trick your brain into feeling happier, so faking your laugh Friends-style can be worth the awkwardness.
18. Learn to poke fun at yourself. We all make mistakes and have embarrassing moments we’d rather forget. We’re only human. So wouldn’t it be much healthier if, instead of being ashamed or letting your inner critic out, you actively seek humor in those situations? Contrary to popular belief, self-deprecating jokes may actually be a sign that you’re happier than the average guy or girl.
19. Remember that laughing doesn’t take away from the seriousness of your situation. Having a smile on your face doesn’t mean you’re not in pain, it only means you’ve pushed those feelings to the background for one brief moment. Any one who does not get that, does not deserve your tears.
Laughter probably will not cure your illness, or will it take away all your pain. But having a strong sense of humor can be a helpful coping strategy that also supports your health and happiness, even if you’re hurting.
What helps you to keep a sense of humor when you’re in pain?
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