One of myy daughters told me this joke today. “Why did the students eat their paper?” I paused. “Because their teacher told them it was a piece of cake!”. I paused again and then laughed out loud. Really laughed. A happy, joyful laugh. And then I laughed again.
When was the last time you had a good belly laugh? That you laughed so hard your stomach hurt?
A good laugh can be compared to a mild workout, as it exercises the muscles, gets the blood flowing, decreases blood pressure and stress hormones, improves sleep patterns and boosts the immune system. In fact, a study by the John Hopkins University Medical School in the US, showed that humour and laughter can also improve memory and mental performance.
Laughing is good for us. But sometimes there are times in our life that we laugh less.
I’ve always had a love of telling jokes or a funny story and it’s so nice to see that it runs in the family and has now passed to my daughter. But when I went through my burnout, it was harder for me to laugh. I lost the appetite for it and probably my self-confidence. But my kids helped me bring this into perspective.
I remember one day, I decided to draw a funny face on all the oranges we had in the house. I took them with me for the kids as a snack. My girls could not stop laughing and wanted to make more funny faces on the oranges. It was such a lovely moment! Sometimes it’s just a tiny change that you need to make and there you are laughing again. I started doing more ‘silly things’ like this and it really helped me find my sense of humour again.
It is interesting to note that humour, and by extension, laughter, stimulates multiple physiological systems that decrease levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol and increases the activation of the dopamine, according to researchers in a 2017 study in Advances in Physiology Education. A 2003 study by Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that viewing a funny film decreased a wide variety of stress hormones.
Another 2015 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that three 60-minute laughter therapy sessions improved the depression and negative mood states of cancer patients.
So the evidence is there. It is important it is to laugh and smile. It helps us go through life with a lighter note. Smile, laugh, or listen to a joke; maybe tell one yourself!
In case you’re wondering how to inject more moments of laughter into your life here are three suggestions for you:
Find the humour in a bad situation
Yes, there are situations that are genuinely sad and certainly not laughing matters. However, many situations in life have an ironic or even ludicrous side to them. The next time you feel the stress levels rising, take a minute to think about the irony of the situation and allow yourself to laugh over the things you can’t control. This will decrease the amount of cortisol that your body produces due to stress and thus lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
Remind yourself of funny moments from the past
Perhaps a friend told you a great joke the other day, your children or pets did something amusing, or maybe you watched a funny movie recently that had you in stitches. Call on these memories frequently, especially when you’re feeling down, angry or stressed. Sometimes just reliving a funny moment can cause the endorphins to kick in, which act as natural painkillers and mood boosters.
Surround yourself with fun people who like to laugh a lot
Someone who is smiling and happy is like a magnet attracting other happy, smiling people. They convey happiness to other people. Make a point of seeking out positive people who aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves and who have a knack for finding humour in life’s more testing situations. Young children are especially adept at finding laughter and joy in everyday moments.
What is your experience with Burnout and returning to work?