Stock up on humour and laugh as often as you can
Making space for whatever cracks you up will free you from resenting others for not sharing your taste.
Laughing is healthy because it stimulates endorphin. Real laughs are what it takes to trigger the chemical. You have more power over your laughter than you may think.
Here are three things you can do it give yourself the gift of laughter.
1. Stock up on funny stuff: We stock up on healthy snacks to avoid yielding to junk food, and in the same way, you can stock up on comedy to avoid yielding to gloom. It may seem wrong for laughter to need advance preparation, but once a bad mood strikes, you are not motivated to shop for comedy. And even if you look, everything you find may seem 'not funny'. So take time to gather funny stuff on a good day, so it will be ready on a bad day.
Store your humour in an easily accessible place so you'll have it in times of need. Stock your phone with comedy before a medical treatment or a difficult challenge at work.
Buy yourself tickets to a comedy performance to have something to look forward to after a trying time. You will help your brain shift its focus from negative to positive.
2. Prioritise your taste in humour: When I go to my local improv theatre, I laugh very hard, so I want to share it with friends. But I've often found that friends don't like it, and that can ruin it for me. And, truth be told, I don't like many of the humorous movies and performances I've been invited to. So I've learned that humour is individual. If you want to laugh, you have to make time for what you like.
You don't need to justify your taste. You don't need to excuse your indulgence in your own sense of humour. We can accept our individuality and give ourselves permission to honour it. If you truly like to share entertainment, budget some sharing time that's separate from your laugh time. Making space for whatever cracks you up will free you from resenting others for not sharing your taste. And it feels good!
A word of caution about bitter, angry humour is necessary. Like an addiction, it may feel good in the short run but leave you feeling worse in the long run. Experiment with humour that's not angry. This can be hard to find! That's why Rule #1 is so important: you have to invest time collecting it in advance.
3. Don't hold back your laughs: Do you hold back your laughter because you think it looks dumb? Many people do. Maybe you think your teeth look bad or you don't want to sound frivolous.
Once you start suppressing laughs, it becomes automatic and you don't know you're doing it. You can rewire this habit but it takes time and effort. Start by noticing other people's laughs, and think positively about them. If you notice that you're being critical of other people's laughs, make a conscious effort to find the joy and freedom they're expressing. Once you can be positive about the laughs of others, your mirror neurons will help you be positive about your own laughter. It takes a lot of repetition to rewire a deep bodily impulse, so don't give up.
Laughing can help prevent a negative spiral. Bad things can happen at any time. Your beloved may break up with you. Your employer may go bankrupt. Your health may fail.
We need to be ready with a reliable but healthy way to feel good.
- Psychology Today
Loretta Graziano Breuning is professor emerita at California State University East Bay and author of Habits of a Happy Brain