Maintain a Sense of Humor to Cope

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A sense of humor can be an amazing line of defense when it comes to coping with stress. Unfortunately, stress is inevitable and you can't eliminate it, despite your best efforts. You can, however, better prepare yourself for stress with several coping techniques.

Developing a sense of humor about life's challenges is a great place to start. A sense of humor will help you to build resilience to stress as well as improve your overall physical and emotional health. It will also enable you to:

  • Bond with others
  • Look at things in a different way
  • Normalize your experience
  • Keep your relationships strong

Luckily, it's not too hard to develop a healthy sense of humor—but it does require a bit of practice. Here are a few ways to find the funny in life and better cope with stress.

Start With a Smile

Even if you fake a smile (making the physical shape with your mouth), it can lead to increased happiness (not just looking happier). This is because the act of smiling (real or fake) causes your body to release feel-good endorphins. Plus, a fake smile tends to lead to a genuine one—and this means that laughter will come more easily, and the stress will melt more readily.

Take a Step Back

When you’re in the middle of a difficult situation, it can seem overwhelming. Taking a step back, however, and viewing your situation as an observer can help you see your situation with a new lense. This is called reframing—and it works.

Value the Extremes

If your situation seems ridiculously frustrating, recognize the potential humor in just how ridiculously frustrating and annoying it is. In your imagination, take the situation to an extreme that becomes even more ridiculous until you find yourself amused. For example, if you are waiting in a long line at the store, imagine that hours pass, then days, visualizing loved ones visiting you in your new home or holding your child's birthday party in aisle seven…you get the picture.

Recruit Funny Buddies

Social support is a crucial part of stress management. Find a friend or group of friends with whom you can share your frustrations and challenges, and laugh about them in the process. Even when your friends are not there, you can lighten your mood by thinking about the retelling that will come later.

Make It a Game

You can have a "most annoying boss" contest with your friends, or try to count how many times the same potentially frustrating event happens in a day. ("I was cut off in traffic seven times today—I’m almost up to 10.") This works well for predictable or repetitive annoying situations that you can’t control; you can begin to view them in their own special way instead of letting them unnerve you.

Watch Funny Shows and Movies

One of the reasons that sitcoms are so popular is that many of them take somewhat universal situations that people find frustrating and push them a little further to show the silly side of it all. Realizing that some universally annoying situations are actually funny, can help you endure them with a smile—even if it’s a wry or ironic smile.

Read Funny Books

Reading humorous interpretations of life can help you maintain a light-hearted point-of-view and find your own style of seeing the world in a different light. Look for an author skilled at finding the humor in life events, ranging from annoying to upsetting or even tragic. Some suggestions: Dave Barry, David Sedaris, or Jerry Seinfeld. 

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Laughter yoga, which combines laughter and intentional yogic breathing (pranayama), is a great way to release stress and get some more giggles into your day. If this type of class is not available to you, there are other types of yoga and relaxation strategies (meditation, tai chi, deep breathing) to minimize stress so you can build your resilience and your sense of humor.

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