As a psychiatrist, I’m a big prescriber of laughter. Not the contrived or canned kind, but laughter from the soul. Just as I guide patients, I’d like you to sense when your funny bone is legitimately hit, an energetic place that resonates. True laughter is a surrender to hilarity; a sound, a smile, a heart opening. You feel it in your chest, or your whole body may shake. Also, notice that prior to a joke, there’s an air of expectation, a subtle shift in consciousness and attention, the promise of mood transformation. But faking laughter is like faking orgasm; no positive energy to be had there. Since I’ve never gotten most conventional jokes, I know the awkward position of hating to fake a smile but being afraid to offend or seem clueless. Now I just make a joke out of my not getting it: that feels more authentic and relieves me of the negative fallout of pretending to be something I’m not.
Energy comes from humor. However, each of us, even the crotchety, must locate our sense of what’s funny, raucous or wry. Although jokes often elude me, I really respond to the spontaneous comedy of life itself. I get a huge kick out of quirky little things such as children squealing as they pop bubble wrap. I consider loss of laughter a crime against psyche and spirit. With my patients, laughter’s absence never gets by me; I make it my business to notice when it’s missing, and help them recoup it. Otherwise, laughter-less, they’re unknowingly living in energetic poverty. We don’t ordinarily equate lack of laughter with deprivation, but, from an energy perspective it is.
Here are some pointers from my book Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear into Vibrance, Strength, and Love I give patients to help them reconnect with their inner child to get them laughing. In this exercise be authentic, have fun, and feel the positive energy. Sometimes laughing has become so alien, it helps to have a plan.
5 Strategies to Reconnect with Your Inner Child and Laugh More
Reclaim your inner child’s life force
Every grown-up has an inner child. Both are distinct energetic aspects of our life force. For full vigor, each must be accounted for. Your inner child may need urging but it wants to be embraced. (Having kids often naturally spurs this reconnecting process in parents who otherwise might never get there.) For starters, bring out your baby or childhood photos. Really look at them. The photos can rematerialize shelved energy. Next, with photo in hand, promise to honor that child’s needs. For example, I promised mine: “You’ll never have to smile for a camera again unless you want to--”an expectation I despised when growing up. Recall ordeals you had to endure; vow no repeats. Also, begin to recognize when your inner child is in jeopardy. The tip offs? Perhaps you’re laughing less, feeling overtired or overworked.
Find activities your inner child loves.
Explore what your inner child genuinely finds fun or funny. First, recall activities from your youth that made you smile. Miniature golf. Bugs Bunny. Elmer Fudd. The fast-forward chipmunk voice you get from inhaling a helium balloon. Memories can get rusty laughter synapses cranking. Second, see what sorts of fun your inner child responds to now. Peruse the newspaper’s leisure section, ask friends what’s funny, check out genres of comedy from standup to radio.
Seek out people who laugh.
We absorb funniness by osmosis. Hearty laughers spread those positive vibes to us. What counts most, though, is the energy behind the laugh, not just sound or facial expression. Take the Dali Lama’s infectious giggle which comes from a place of love and wonder--its healing energy goes straight to our hearts. The other extreme are people who have grins on their faces, but whose laughter often stems from malice or psychic pain. So confusing. They’re laughing, yet you’re being slimed with negative vibes. There’s no joy coming your way. Don’t be fooled; trust your energetic assessment.
Play with children.
Children have PhD’s in play; their lack of inhibition is contagious. Spend time with them. If you’re lucky enough to be around infants, watch how they grin at six weeks, then laugh at four months, a natural instinct. Or observe children at play; they haven’t learned to guard their emotions or hold in squeals and giggles. They’re just beaming. Try to open your heart, and absorb these vibes.
Set you intention to laugh as much as possible.
From the moment you wake up in the morning, look for things to laugh about. Regularly laughing buoys our energy field, reverses learned seriousness. If our parents had said at breakfast, “Be sure not to miss out on any laughs today,” it’d be a lot easier. But most didn’t, so we have to teach ourselves. At Santa Monica’s Wellness Community, cancer survivors have laugh-a-thons. They share jokes, crack up at just about everything including medical misadventures, and know that this will help healing. Real wisdom we all can benefit from, but let’s not wait for a health challenge to catch on. So, be amused by whatever you can, especially your own foibles. Laughter is a way of cherishing your energy.
I see laughter as a survival tool. As Emerson says, “The earth laughs in flowers.” When you laugh at something everything lightens up. Whatever tightness you have, that particular log jam is broken. The energy of your life force begins to flow again.
Judith Orloff MD is bestselling author of the new book Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life upon which these tips and article are based. Her insights in Emotional Freedom create a new convergence of healing paths for our stressed out world. An assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, Dr. Orloff's work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, and in Oprah Magazine and USA Today.