Have you ever sat in a busy airport or train station and just people-watched? It doesn't have to be a busy place, actually.
The other day, I met a colleague for a business lunch at a nearby restaurant. As we were having our meeting, I became a little distracted because a little boy, perhaps three years of age, started making funny faces--not at me or anyone in particular for that matter. It seemed he was simply making silly faces to entertain himself. His mom, who appeared like she was having a serious conversation with another adult, intermittently chided him to eat his food and get his face off of his cup (it looked like he was trying to experience the feel of the cup as he mushed it against his mouth).
He then proceeded not to listen to his mom, jump off his chair and lie down on the floor, to get a feel of the cold floor against his face. Every time his face touched the ceramic floor, he would giggle.
It made me giggle. I wanted to get up and put my face on the floor too. But I held back, of course. How would that look? I am a serious doctor in a serious meeting. Aren't I?
Well, before I had a chance to convince myself otherwise, the mom picked the boy up, placed him back in his seat, and asked him to behave and eat his food. She was very sweet about it, so he didn't cry, but he definitely looked disappointed. His pancakes were not as interesting as the floor, but the ice in his drink was!
When did we stop being so curious?
When did we start taking ourselves so seriously?
We do have more responsibilities, more worries. And life is certainly hard. Is this why the laughter has gone out of us?
I don't mean the little giggles here and there. I mean the big belly laughter that makes your eyes water and your stomach ache. You know, the one that is catching and usually makes everyone around you laugh too, with abandon--the kind of laugh that makes you feel so good.
Why don't you try it right now? Exactly. I bet you just chuckled. Can you let out a guffaw? Are you too self-conscious?
Research is very strong showing that laughter is the best medicine. Yes, life is difficult, especially right now, but laughter and even smiling is so good for you. It can turn off your stress response long enough for you to get your head cleared when you are feeling overwhelmed or down. It can also help make you healthier.
Here's how to get yourself laughing more:
1. Laughter yoga (not this can be hysterical--getting the audience involved with ha, ha, ha, until everyone is crying
2. Watch a funny movie--in fact, you can watch boddisatva on the metro on youtube.com . IT IS HYSTERICAL!
3. Sit across from your friend and do a stare down--see who laughs first
4. if you find yourself in a stressful situation and you need to calm down, reflect on a funny moment--perhaps your child did something funny or you did something funny.
5. You can also just make yourself smile--smile at yourself in front of the mirror and exercise those muscles.
6. A great visualization exercise that you can do to distress is to imagine yourself as a child.
Then see yourself as this child running around, laughing hysterically or making like you just don't care, which you don't at that age.
As you imagine, allow yourself to experience the feel good feelings. Some people have problems with this imagery because they were serious as children. If this is the case, find your favorite child (hopefully your own) and mimic them (in your imagination if you feel self conscious).