HUMOR: The juice for overcoming stress

April’s half over and here I am writing my “Character Strength of the Month” post for the month. I’ve been rather caught up in the busy-ness of business that has reached a fever pitch recently. I’ve talked with a number of people recently who have been going through a “crazy” period as well. Whether you blame it on cosmic rays, politicians, Facebook or the coming of spring, everything seems to be either ramping up or falling apart. Sometimes both.

How does one cope? This month, I’m suggesting HUMOR.

“I have complete faith in the continued absurdity of whatever’s going on.” – Jon Stewart

Finding humor in a difficult situation can be a challenge. Sometimes embracing the absurdity of it all can help.

Letting go – realizing that there are some things we cannot control – can be empowering. It’s not the same as giving up. Rather, letting go is acknowledging that we don’t have the power to change all the big things by ourselves, so fretting over them only puts us in a fight or flight state which in turn affects our cognitive ability and makes us less able to do other things that ARE within our power to change.

Letting go, even for as little as a minute, and finding a point of stillness can begin to turn our system toward a more positive state. Doing heart-focused breathing while activating positive emotions can actually turn on our higher brain functions and get us into a state where we feel inspired to act on things that are within our power to change.

Plenty of studies have shown the healing benefits of laughter. When the absurdity and stress reach a fever pitch, having a good belly laugh can be just the positive emotion to pull you out of a funk. And the research shows the positive effects stick with you for a while.

The prescription is: whatever makes you laugh.

In our house, we use Netflix or pull out an old DVD of a favorite comedy movie or TV series. Even if it’s something we’ve seen multiple times – just knowing it is guaranteed to make us laugh gets the good juices flowing before the popcorn is done.

If you have a favorite comic strip, cut it out – or troll the website and print out some of your favorites to hang around your desk or computer. Curate a Pinterest collection. Or, even better, buy a book – most comic artists publish books as well and it’s a way to repay them for all the humor therapy. Our Far Side book is one of my favorites – whenever I look at it, I usually end up in tears.

Activating our strength of humor nourishes us and makes us more resilient to whatever life throws at us. So take a break from the serious and tee-up something that makes you smile. You might just find yourself spotting the humor in the absurdities of whatever’s going on.

Jennifer

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