Last week we discussed laughter as a way to practice joy as a family and to relieve stress. We are continuing our exploration today because we believe that sharing fun is essential for knitting families together.
Consider the illustration on the left. I'm betting you are too familiar with the feelings of overwhelm and frustration that it depicts. Our kids also experience these negative emotions as well. None of us enjoy such negativity. It is painful to experience and it is difficult to be on the receiving end as well.
Attitudes of detachment, negativity fear and anger can become habitual. Adults and children can become stuck seeing life as a half-empty glass--or worse. Despair, discouragement, and desperation become the norm. Isolation, fear, blame and self-protection dominate and impede attachment, affection and positive engagement.
Most of us would prefer to leave fury behind and step into an attitude of calm. How much better might it be to feel joy-filled? Imagine embodying the mood of the second image. Most people would prefer it. It makes sense, therefore, to intentionally create moments of joy, fun and affection. What can be done to shift to this positive state?
One simple action is to choose your facial expression. Instead of a blank stare, scowl or frown, intentionally decide to sport a smile. This proactively generates the benefits of feeling happy and they also establish a pattern--physiological and social that embeds in our bodies. Why not make a smile your "default" setting instead of a scowl? Let go of the anger and the expectation that things will be bleak. Take a risk and choose to be vulnerable. Instead of expecting gloom and doom, decide to adopt an expectation of positivity.
There's a reason that the adage of "Fake it until you make it" exists. At some level our physiology trumps our emotions. When we actively engage in laughter, it over rides the preoccupation with stress, negativity and anger. Habits are difficult to change but with intention, practice and patient, it is possible to adapt more positive approaches.
Try this simple exercise performed in a mirror. Perform each for fifteen seconds.
1. Look at yourself with a neutral expression.
2. Look at yourself with a broad grin.
3. Look at yourself with a neutral expression.
4. Look at yourself with an intense scowl.
5. Look at yourself with a broad grin for 30 seconds.
What changes in mood or attitude did you notice? I predict that the intentional smile resulted in an improvement in mood. What benefits might ensue if intentional smiling became a daily practice for you and your family. What if you amped it up a notch and practiced intentional laughter? Commit to this regimen for thirty days. Track your results then share them with us.
Finally, here are two videos about laughter as a practice. Treat yourself to this delightful video as this baby laughs . Note your own response as well as that of the dad and little sister. Laughter is contagious and a beautiful thing to pass on!
The second video from the world-renowned Deepak Chopra demonstrates how to begin with a deep breath and move to a belly laugh. Notice how simple it is to accomplish once the inner critic is muted and the Inner Child comes through.
How might you and your family benefit from increasing the laughter in your lives?