Every once in a while, or for some of us maybe every day, we could all use a good laugh. Things like bills, break-ups, illness, and just the general stress that living life these days brings, can make it all seem hopeless. But when you’re in the depths of your depression, a moment of pain, grief, apathy or anger, it can be hard to figure out how to make yourself laugh.
As someone who has experience with the subject, I thought I’d share how I manage to make myself laugh whenever I need to. This is a pretty simple exercise and it will probably feel very stupid. But I promise you, if you try it you will feel better. It does work.
If you’re at home you can do this anywhere, with or without an audience, your choice. If you’re at work or out and about you might want to go into a bathroom stall and try it out. I’ve found myself doing that when I can’t stop crying but I’m not at home.
Start with a Smile
Going from grief to laughter can be a bit tough to do. I usually try to start with a smile and build up to laughter. Here’s the first step of this exercise:
Look at yourself in a mirror and try smiling. It’s going to look fake at first and that’s okay. If you’re crying it will look downright goofy. Just keep smiling at yourself in the mirror. Maybe try out different types of smiles, but just focus on smiling.
If the mood doesn’t start to lighten, continue to force your smile and look around at things. You will soon find something you can smile about. I personally like to look at my cats and smile. If you know what makes you happy, just think about it or look at it, find a picture of it, and force a goofy smile.
If you’re in a bathroom stall you might have to get more creative. Try looking at pictures on your phone or browsing YouTube for funny videos.
Keep forcing it until the mood lightens. This can take a few minutes depending on how down you are.
You Don’t Need a Reason to Laugh
If you try to find a reason to laugh right away, likely you’re going to fall short. Even the funniest of things are hard to laugh at when you’re feeling super down.
Once you’ve found a reason to smile, even the smallest reason for the smallest smile, try forcing a laugh. It’s going to sound stupid so you might want to do it in a room by yourself. But don’t worry about how it sounds. Just force a laugh for absolutely no reason at all.
Try snorting a laugh.
Try out different ways of laughing and listen to how you laugh.
Keep trying different kinds of laughs while either looking in the mirror or looking around the room. Soon you’ll find something you can laugh about, even if only for a moment.
If you’re in a bathroom stall you shouldn’t find it too hard to find a reason to laugh. Force-laughing in a bathroom stall is funny all on its own. It takes me about 30 seconds of giggles to really start to feel it, especially if other people are in the same bathroom.
Now that you’ve found a couple reasons to smile or laugh, you may still be feeling down, but you’re headed in a better direction. You might have a better ability to control your deep emotion and maintain a bit more composure from your previous grief. Any improvement is a plus, but don’t stop here.
If you need to, keep forcing that smile, keep forcing that laugh, more things will come that you can smile and laugh about.
If You Get Stuck
If at any point you are having difficulty finding something to smile or laugh about and you’ve been force-smiling or force-laughing for at least 5-10 minutes, try some of these things while you are doing this exercise:
Look up pictures, quotes or stories online that are funny.
Turn on a funny show or movie, maybe your favorite stand-up comedian. Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan are my go-tos.
Find someone to help you do the exercise with you. There is nothing more contagious than smiling and laughter, except maybe things that are actually contagious like the flu.
If I’m feeling down, I will sit and fake laugh with my husband and he’ll start laughing at my fake laugh and then I’ll laugh because he’s laughing and before I know it I feel a bit better.
The Importance of Laughter
Laughter is part of what gives meaning to life. It makes a moment memorable and our days worthwhile. We all deserve to laugh no matter how dire our situation. If your pain and grief is so bad that you find yourself thinking, “What’s the point?” then you need to laugh. While this exercise isn’t going to change your circumstances, it will improve the mood so you can focus on doing that.
I’d love to hear about your best methods for how to make yourself laugh. Please share in the comments.