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I have heard that laughter can help us cope with stress, but when I'm stressed out, laughter is the farthest thing from my mind. Nothing seems particularly funny. How can laughter help me in this frame of mind? Stressed in Kansas City, Kansas.
Curiously, in order to stop laughing, we must put controls on our laughter. We are taught control from an early age." Stop that laughing. This is serious." Sound familiar? Laughter is our natural, physiological response to stress and pain. We use it to handle the emotions of anger and fear. Left to its own devices, our body will laugh despite our best intentions. That's why some of us laugh at funerals or at a friend's misfortune when we see and feel nothing funny. We don't laugh because we're insensitive; we laugh because we are feeling. When under stress, we feel anger that we have too much to do and fear we won't get it done or get it done right. If we become serious about it, we lock down our feelings. Try, instead, to relax and let your body work it's healing magic. You don't need something funny to laugh to release stress. It just requires you to let go.
I used to be able to laugh easily and a lot. Lately, I find that I have lost that ability. What's happened to my laughter and will I be able to laugh again? Serious in Raleigh, N.C.
I believe you can laugh again. Laughter is a biological gift which we all possess, and it's readily accessible if we are able to remove our controls. It's possible that you lost your laughter due to the need to control feelings you did not feel able to express for one reason or another. The longer we hold back, the greater the tension in our bodies. The physical controls we exert often make it difficult to laugh. If we unconsciously grit our teeth or lock our jaw muscles down, for example, it's hard to laugh. Our verbal censors running through our minds also lock us up. In order to laugh, we have to be able to risk loss of control. To regain your laughter, I suggest you adopt a playful stance about the serious issues in your life if you can. Doing this doesn't diminish the importance of things, it just gives a different perspective so things are not always "in your face." Practice laughing. Make the sounds, move your body, throw your head back, open your mouth. Practice is good for you and brings on the real laughter. Seek the company of laughers. Find your triggers for laughter and use them consciously and often. Enjoy the laughter I know you will find.