Laughter might be the last thing on your mind when you’ve lost a loved one, a job, a home, or are experiencing financial difficulty. Even if you’re a good-natured person inherently, it’s hard to see beyond the struggle when you’re in the midst of it.
Despite this reality, engaging in a hearty belly laugh now and then is surprisingly very healing, both physiologically and emotionally. Laughter accesses the limbic system, the part of our brains that houses emotional processing and responses. When you laugh so hard you cry, you’re actually reaping double benefits, too: Research shows evidence that tears shed during times of extreme stress have a different chemical makeup than those shed when you’re temporarily sad.
Here are some ways laughter can help you when you’re grieving:
- Find a funny friend and suggest a night out. If you can’t get out, invite him/her over. Let loose and allow yourself to double over with puns, slapstick, dry, or whatever type of humor triggers your funny bone.
- Watch your favorite comedy. Or try a stand-up comedian. Ben and I really love the “clean comics” Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan. They never fail to make us wheeze with laughter.
- Do something fun. “Fun” is almost always the last thing on everyone’s list when they are grieving. Even if you can’t imagine going out, do it anyway. Your mind, body, and soul need a break.
- Read a funny book. If you don’t know of any, ask around.
- Look for humorous memes online. There are plenty. All you have to do is Google!
Though it might seem frivolous or trite, it’s important to take time out to relax, regroup, and find something refreshing to help you refocus on the joys in life. Even if you burst into guffaws at the oddest moments or for the strangest reasons, go with it. I can’t explain the times when Ben and I have shared a good belly laugh over something like an inside joke or a ridiculous story or comment. There’s something very healing and cathartic that occurs.
When you laugh, you clear your mind. Your body’s tension will loosen, and you will feel the visceral response of stress leaving your body, and you will feel stronger and more capable of tackling all the burdens you are facing.
Paraphrased from my book, From Grief to Grace: The Journey from Tragedy to Triumph.