When life gets tough, an easy way to release tension is a good laugh. But have you ever considered “mindful laughing” while watching your favorite comedy? It might seem unlikely to think of comedy as a mindful experience, especially when the material could contain cursing, ranting, and raunchiness. But there is an argument to make for comedy as a sort of meditation. This Monday, make time to laugh out loud – for your health!
Research has shown that the physical effects of laughing on stress levels are very positive. When you laugh, you are engaging in a legitimate cardiovascular activity. You take in more oxygen with every guffaw and give your heart muscles a low-impact but helpful jolt. This gets your blood circulating oxygen-rich blood and releases endorphins, one of the hormones that makes you feel great after exercising. Coming down from a burst of laughter also relaxes your muscles and eases the physical symptoms of stress.
Now that we know how healthy it is to laugh, let’s make it mindful!
Using comedy as a meditative practice can be a great step if you’re curious about mindfulness. As helpful as they are, quiet meditation and deep breathing may not work for every person. But if you reframe how you think about watching something that makes you laugh, you can easily turn a fun pastime into a mindful practice.
Choose something that you find funny. If you only have a little while, find a short video online. You might even have a few reliable favorites bookmarked. If you have the time, pick a funny movie or TV show. Funny reading material (books, blogs, etc.) or listening material (podcasts, comedy albums) are also great options.
Clear all other distractions. Make your comedy the only thing you’re going to care about for the duration that it’s on. Turn off your phone or put it on silent. If you’re using your phone to watch a video or listen to a podcast, turn off other notifications that might take your attention away. If you can, put your phone down. Close your eyes if you’re listening to audio.
Listen, watch, and laugh. Instead of passively enjoying what you’re watching or listening to, make a point to concentrate and absorb what you’re watching. Take in every detail of the story, the words, and the timing of jokes. Watch facial expressions and body language. Allow yourself to laugh without inhibition. This reaction to humor is a natural reflex. It’s doesn’t have to be anything beyond that.
Walk out “the door.” When your show wraps up, it should feel as if you’re leaving an auditorium after observing your own private performance.
A sign of good comedy is its ability to fully engage you. Let the talented people who write and perform comedy give you a few minutes or more to turn off everything else in your life and make you think, laugh, and relax. Start Monday with a laugh!