It is my 26th year of practicing as a chiropractor. That means I’ve been in this wellness space for a long time! Even with all that time helping others and applying wellness principles to my own life, I’m still learning.
One of the ways that I learn is through my podcast, Small Changes Big Shifts. Every week, I get to spend 20 minutes (or so) talking to some of the super smart people in the wellness space. They share with me and the listeners some of their best personal practices, what they are working on professionally, and what is interesting to them right now.
Recently, I featured Heidi Hanna on the podcast. You can listen to that episode here, and catch up on all of them here. Heidi said she makes time every single day for 3 things: movement, meditation, and mirth. I was so surprised that she said “mirth” was one of the must-have parts of her wellness routine.
I think we all love to laugh, but as soon as Heidi said it, I realized that I don’t make laughing a very big priority in my day. I have all kinds of wellness practices, but humor isn’t one of them.
Why Does Humor Matter?
Humor can have an impact on your mind and body, and it has a variety of measurable health benefits. In your mind:
- It relieves anxiety and tension
- It can be an outlet for anger and frustration
- It provides a healthy escape from reality
- It relieves stress
- It can increase your focus on a task
In your body:
- Humor can help you breathe deeply and clear your airways
- It can stimulate your heart rate and blood pressure, which then causes your cardiac system to relax
- It can boost your immune system
- It can relieve pain because it can help your muscles relax
- It massages internal organs, so it can help digestion
Humor actually goes beyond just physical benefits in your body. It has social benefits as well that can be just as powerful in relieving your stress.
- It lessens the hierarchy between people
- It helps to establish rapport
- It decreases the social gap
- It solidifies a group by developing connections between them
How Humor Can Make a Difference
I featured my friend, Emily Morgan, on one of my Small Changes Big Shifts videos. She showed resilience through one of her major life trials, and I’ll let her share one of her stories from that time:
“In the last few days of 2014, I had two major surgeries. They left me in a lot of pain and my mom stayed with me for almost 6 weeks to take care of me. Sometime around week 5, I was laying on the couch and we were flipping through the channels. I hit one station just as they played the opening scene of Pitch Perfect. I stopped, thinking we’d watch for a minute until my mom was bored. We watched the entire movie. It was the first time we had laughed since the surgery.
For me, laughing made all the difference. I didn’t think about it in these terms at the time, but I realized much later that hearing my mom laugh made me feel like the world wasn’t ending. Her laughter reminded me that there was a world outside of my pain. I loved Pitch Perfect before (full confession), but it came at just the right time for both me and my mom.”
How to Add Humor to Your Life
There are those things that make us laugh every time, no matter how many times we see or hear it. With Emily’s example, she laughs at Pitch Perfect every time she sees it. Because this is often true, Heidi Hanna suggests keeping a collection of things that make you laugh. If a movie really makes you laugh, maybe it’s the one you buy so that you can watch it anytime. You could create a Pinterest board of pictures that make you laugh, or have a folder of anything that makes you laugh.
As part of your collection, you could also get a daily calendar of jokes or cartoons. Keeping it on your desk could give you a way to fit humor into your daily routine. You can also choose to have a collection of movies and books that make you laugh that you can turn to on days that you need a boost.
Share humor with your friends and family. This has two great benefits: you’ll firm up your bond with them and get a variety of humor because of everyone’s different perspective.
Several years ago, I went to a Women’s Conference in Kansas City. It spotlighted female business owners and entrepreneurs who are making a difference with their work. During one session, they taught us to do laughing yoga. I felt ridiculous! They had us walk in a circle and fake laugh, “Ha ha ha, hee hee hee, ho ho ho.” That’s really what we were supposed to say. After a few minutes, I started to really laugh at how silly I felt. Then I realized everyone else was laughing too, and some of them had such great laughs I just laughed harder. “Fake it till you make it” applies to laughter too.