As January winds down and February’s about to begin, many people are still facing the same problems, frustrations or worries they did in 2017 — yet they’d still like to take a brighter outlook and achieve a higher quality of life in this new year.
But inevitably, familiar issues get them down year after year. How can this new year of 2018 be different? How can all of us stay more positive and hopeful despite problems that haven’t gone away yet?
Making laughter a part of everyday life is the answer. When life gets tough, laughter begins.
We all have humor inside us or the ability to see the lighter side of things — and it’s healthy for us to tap into this in a variety of ways. When we really deconstruct some things in our lives that may be problems or annoyances, we can creatively come at them with laughter — and our whole outlook changes.
In my case, I was born with a rare genetic disease called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome-Hypermobility Type (hEDS). I was not diagnosed until my mid-20s, when I had a complete reconstruction of my right shoulder after a dislocation. The painful condition includes muscular skeletal complications. (I had to stop running by age six because I would dislocate both knees. Image a kid who can’t play or run without pain?)
Throughout my life, humor has been a survival tool for me. If I don’t laugh, my only option is to curl up and cry — which I do sometimes, too. But then I kick myself in the butt and keep moving.
Mentally and physically, the benefits of laughter are many. Here are five benefits that can help all of us make this year happier overall:
1.) It reduces stress. Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline), and it boosts the immune system.
Science has further shown that after a good laugh, muscles can be relaxed for up to 45 minutes. Laughter is a free stress-management strategy, and in today’s pressured, problem-filled world, there’s a big premium on that. Laughter is often the best kind of therapy.
2.) It burns calories. Everybody wants to lose weight in a new year. Laugh hard enough — and we may be able to skip some gym visits now and then. Studies show that a good stream of laughter can burn 40 calories in 30 minutes.
3.) It becomes a coping mechanism. Laughter makes us feel good. Instead of complaining about life’s frustrations, trying to laugh about them helps.
Humor helps us keep a positive outlook through difficult situations. When something extremely frustrating or depressing occurs, try to take the longer view and envision that one day you’ll be able to look back on it and laugh. But why not laugh right now? You also feel stronger. This approach will also make you better equipped to deal with future negative events less stressfully.
4.) It brings people together and strengthens relationships. Laughter connects us with others. You can’t enjoy a laugh with other people unless you take the time to engage with them.
It improves the quality of social interaction we have with our friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. The old saying is, “Laughter is contagious.” If we bring more laughter into our lives, we can help others around us laugh more and reap the benefits of humor, which in turn helps them with their problems.
It makes other people happy, because it’s very infectious — just as anger is.
We all need more laughter right now. Maybe we can all start by laughing at those New Year’s resolutions we made back in December (for a lot of us, those turn out to be a joke anyway). It doesn’t have to be a new year to start a new day, a new outlook, for ourselves.
Lee Volpe is the author of “Black Sheep Tries Bleach: Humorous Stories to Ease Life’s Growing Pains” and is based in Florida.
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