How to Keep "Light" in Dark Times

(Photo credit: Ashley Corbin-Teich)

It's the beginning of February. We are well into the depths of winter, and a month past the time when we've set our intentions for the year ahead. By now, many of us have given up on our casually-stated and half-heartedly attempted resolutions. Like most people, a couple of my 2017 goals have fallen by the wayside (like trying to make all of my meals at home-- this just hasn't happened...yet!), but I've discovered over the years that the goals I care the most about usually "stick" beyond the first couple of weeks of January. And this year, one of my major intentions for the New Year was to approach things with more levity-- to not take myself or situations too seriously, and to laugh more.

You've heard the old adage, "Laughter is the best medicine" numerous times, and there's a reason this gem continues to be passed on: laughter really does positively impact our wellbeing, and the research supports this. Humor has been shown to alleviate stress, strengthen the immune system, and improve our relationships with others. In short, it really IS a panacea for that which ails us. And laughter is perhaps particularly important during this time of year when the persistent grey backdrop and chilly winter wind are unavoidable (unless, of course, you hop on a flight to St. Lucia). And this isn't the only harsh atmosphere we are "weathering" right now (pun intended); our political climate is undoubtedly a source of conflict and darkness for many of us, too.

As I've talked about in most of my posts, I have a history of addiction, and during my first year of recovery, I relied very heavily on humor to get me through the rollercoaster of emotions and lifestyle changes that accompany early sobriety. But as my life has grown bigger, more stable, and challenging in new ways, I've discovered that I can fall into the "too-serious" trap; I hold ideas of how things "should" be too tightly, and this can cause me frustration and pain when things don't work out just as I've expected them to. So, for 2017, I decided it was time to recommit to the pursuit of greater levity in my life. Here are a few of the tips that are helping me laugh more and not take myself too seriously, and thus experience less stress & anxiety:

1) Netflix & chill. (Or HBO & Chill). There are so many great comedy specials streaming these days. Tuck into one of these with a mood-boosting tea and let the laughter flow.

2) Pump up the jams and shake yo' groove thang. Music has the power to release dopamine and dancing is a great stress reliever that temporarily makes us forget our cares. And you don't even have to venture out to a loud club or a bar; simply rocking out by yourself in the comfort of your own living room can positively impact mood.

3) Spend time with children. Kids say and do the most adorably ridiculous things. It's almost impossible to keep a straight face when playing a game with a child for any extended period of time.

4) Host a game night. Grab some friends and engage in a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity or Buffalo. The surprising connections players devise through these word association games usually make for a lot of laughter and good-humored ribbing.

5) Try something that you wouldn't normally do (and that scares you just a little bit), like a trapeze or improv comedy class. Taking ourselves outside of our comfort zones, and deciding ahead of time to just experience rather than to have expectations, builds self confidence and gives us the opportunity to laugh at ourselves. Enlist a friend to accompany you for additional fun & feel-good chemicals (sharing laughter and new experiences with others creates and strengthens bonding).

These are just a few tips to help you reconnect with your lighter side. Whatever your source of levity, try to tap into it whenever you feel heavy; besides making you feel better in the moment, laughter may just help you fend off the seasonal flu as well.

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