Tag Archives: laughter

LAUGH! Using Humor as a Stress Management Tool

Laugh laugh laugh laugh laugh…

Don't Get Mad Get Funny - Laugh

Expressions such as, “Oh, just laugh it off” or “Don’t be such a sour puss” don’t make me smile. They make me more annoyed than I was before someone tried to lighten my load. Furthermore, I often snap back with something pithy such as, “Great! What other trite expression can you offer?” Not helpful to anyone. Leigh Anne Jasheway in Don’t Get Mad Get Funny offers a path to find healthy laughter that actually works.  The following is excerpted from her book.

Finding Your Funnybone

Before you can begin to use humor as a stress management tool, you need to understand some things about your sense of humor and your ability and willingness to smile, giggle, or laugh so hard it hurts. Everyone has a different sense of humor and unless you are attuned to yours, you will end up missing many opportunities to use your humor skills to deal with life’s little unexpected miseries.

A recent study reported that the average American five-year-old child laughs out loud around four hundred times a day, while the average adult laughs out loud only fifteen. Young children are truly hedonistic – when something is no longer fun, they stop doing it. We adults call that a short attention span.

A boy laughs while readingReaching adulthood does require a degree of buckling down and getting serious. Let’s face it – there are things we have to do whether we want to or not. But so many of us have lost the sheer capacity for fun, joy, and laughter that even when we have the opportunity, we miss it.

Many adults face a debilitating disease that has never been medically diagnosed: humor impairment. Humor impairment is the inability to find humor even in situations that are funny to most other people. My personal term for this state is constipation, because if you can’t release your emotions through laughter, you emotional and spiritual systems are “backed up”.

Your level of humor constipation is often a result of the environment in which you grew up. If laughter was always present in your family, your ability and willingness to laugh with others is probably great. On the other hand, if, like me, you grew up in a family where laughter was frowned upon, you will probably find it more difficult to express humor in front of others.

But, as with any other behavior, you can change. I grew up in a family where expressing any type of emotion was seen as a sign of immaturity. As a result, I was a most serious child, preferring Edgar Allen Poe and Sylvia Plath to the daily comics. I married a man who believed that neither laughter nor tears were acceptable or desirable. Today, however, I make my living teaching laughter and comedy and performing as a stand-up comic. My background has truly taught me how bleak and unhealthy a life without humor can be. (By the way, I still love Edgar Allen Poe and Sylvia Plath, but now they rub shoulders on my bookshelves with books by Dave Barry and Rita Rudner.)

Take this short quiz to determine how willing and able you are to laugh at life and its foibles.

Your Laughter Profile

  1. During an average day, I laugh out loud, snicker or giggle:
    1. Once or not at all
    2. Two or three times
    3. At least once an hour
    4. Constantly, I’m under medication
  2. When I am alone and read, see, hear, or think something funny, I:
    1. Smile to myself
    2. Laugh out loud, but look around to see if anyone saw me
    3. Laugh out loud and find someone with whom to share the funny thing
    4. Take a cold shower
  3. In the past year, I can remember:
    1. At least one time I spent at least a whole minute laughing
    2. At least two to five times I spent at least a whole minute laughing
    3. More than five times I spent at least a whole minute laughing
    4. I can’t remember – what was the question?
  4. When I’m around other people, they laugh and joke:
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. I never hang around other people, they might laugh at me!
  5. When faced with daily crisis (the dog peed on the rug, I missed the project deadline again, my daughter needs brownies for school NOW!) I respond with a laugh:
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. Only if it’s someone else’s rug, deadline, or child
  6. I do things intentionally to make myself laugh:
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. That might hurt!
  7. The people I spend most of my time with:
    1. Leave me feeling drained and depressed
    2. Don’t really affect my attitude
    3. Make me laugh a lot
    4. Usually steal my lunch money
  8. I can name:
    1. One thing that almost always makes me laugh
    2. Two things that almost always make me laugh
    3. At least three things that almost always makes me laugh
    4. My closest relatives
  9. I laugh at myself:
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. Only when I’m not in the room
  10. I do silly things on purpose (wear strange buttons, make funny noises, and do things to see how others will respond):
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. No one ever notices
  11. When I hear people laughing at work, the first thing I think is:
    1. I wish I could get paid to goof off
    2. I wish I knew what the joke is
    3. How wonderful that they’re having a good time, I think I’ll join them
    4. That it’s Saturday and I shouldn’t even be here

How to score your laughter profile

Give yourself the following points for each letter: a=0 b=1 c=2 d=3. Then add them up to obtain your total score.

If your score is less than 5, you are suffering from humor malnutrition. Someone probably told you “Grow up, get serious!” and you did. In order for you to find the humor in daily events, you will have to start slowly – first by convincing yourself that humor is an acceptable emotion and one that is healthy when used regularly.

If your score is from 6 to 15, you occasionally have a good laugh, but your life lacks humor regularity. Remember, laughter is like exercise – you have to do it regularly to get the full benefit. Use it or lose it! You’re good at expressing humor when you find things funny, but your goal now is to try to find humor in those things that usually make you angry, annoyed, or irritated.

If your score is from 16 to 20, you are humorously fit! Not only do you approach life with the right amount of humor and benefit from it, you also probably make other people’s lives more enjoyable. You should become a friend and role model for people around you who need the healing power of humor yet who don’t seem to be able to use it in their lives.

If your score is from 21 to 33, you’re downright silly, aren’t you? Don’t stifle those childish instincts! Sure they told you in school that the class clown would never go anywhere in life. But they were wrong! Look at Chris Rock! He’s taking it to the bank.

Click here for a printable version.

Your Humor Compass: Where do you find the funny in life?

Now that you have a better idea of your ability and willingness to use humor on a daily basis, it is important to understand the kinds of things that you find funny. After all, just as our taste in food or art varies, so does our taste in what is and is not funny to us.

An important note here: You do not necessarily have to laugh out loud to find something funny. One of my best friends and I went to a movie together a few years ago. I laughed so hard I couldn’t see through the tears. She sat there quietly. Afterwards, she said the movie was one of the funniest she had seen in years.

Ask yourself the following questions to determine the types of humor that you will be able to use to most effectively manage your stress.

  • Do you laugh more at the physical or slapstick humor you find in the Three Stooges, I Love Lucy, Perfect Strangers, and The Mask, or do you prefer verbal humor, or do you enjoy both?
  • Do you have a strong sense of humor ethics? In other words, do you find certain specific types of jokes to be offensive rather than funny?
    It is important for you to understand the types of humor that distress you rather than tickle you. They may include stereotypical jokes, put-downs, or humor about certain subjects that are too close to your heart for you to find them fanny at present.
  • Do you like jokes that focus on things you have in common with the comedian?
    Studies indicate that many people do prefer humor that speaks to their own personal experience, which means that we often prefer comedy from people who are similar in age, race, or gender.|
  • Do you like topical humor, jokes that build on current events?
    Late night humorists are scheduled to appear on television after the news to help people cope with the negative images painted during the evening newscast. If this type of humor is appealing to you, you can try, yourself, to find humor in your local newspaper and nightly news report.
  • Do you like wordplay and puns?
    An interesting thing that I have discovered is that different types of humor appear to be more or less popular in different parts of the United States. When teaching humor classes, I have noted, for example, that people from the Midwest tend to enjoy the humor of puns more than people from other areas of the country.
  • Do you prefer humor that stands on its own, or do you like props and gimmicks?
    Some people find Gallagher extremely funny (for those of you who don’t know, he’s the guy famous for smashing watermelons on stage). Others think he’s just silly.
  • Do you regularly find humor in things that aren’t necessarily meant to be funny?
    For example, do you make jokes about commercials, billboards, medical forms, or warning labels on food packages?

Answering these questions for yourself will help you identify the types of humor to seek out, as well as the types of humor you yourself may attempt in order to reduce your stress and have more fun in life.

Leigh Anne Jasheway telling jokes

But I Don’t Want to Embarrass Myself! Or I Won’t Play That Game

Pushing People Past
Their Comfort Zone to Play Games
Without Pushing Their Buttons

Excerpted from Are You Playing with Me?
By Leigh Ann Jasheway

In an earlier blog,  we talked about how reluctant some people can be in being playful. It may not be their nature. Or a light heart may be something that is frowned upon in their department or their profession. If someone asked me to sit quietly without cracking a smile for an hour, I’d feel very uncomfortable (actually, I’d probably find it impossible), so every time I ask someone to step outside their usual boundaries, I try to conjure up a picture of myself sitting in a chair silently. And then I try not to laugh at the idea.

When it comes to playful activities, there are four types of people. People who:

1. Are not done being a child and need no encouragement to be silly and childlike;
2. Can be coaxed into playfulness fairly easily if everyone else is doing it;
3. May have forgotten how to play and will need a lot of convincing; and
4. Never feel comfortable showing or even admitting they have a playful side. You may be able to get them to sit at the table, but they’ll probably stare at you or have an “emergency phone call” they have to take.

You can coax or cajole the first three types into participating, but with the resisters, all you can do is hope they eventually feel compelled to join in due to peer pressure. Here are my favorite ways to get audiences involved in activities that may be outside their usual comfort zone:

  • Make it clear that yours will not be a staid lecture. From the title, to the description, to the handouts, to the nametags, incorporate playfulness and fun so that no one will be shocked when they get there.
  • Create a playful environment by arranging the room for fun – the closer the better, semi-circles instead of straight lines, and tables so they can make eye contact with one another. Also set the mood with props and lighting. I like to use strings of light shaped like flamingos or chili peppers. Seeing fun lights automatically says “Hey, this could be different!”
  • Get a feeling about the group and how supportive or distant they are by arriving early for networking or a meal. Set the tone with your own playful attitude. Joke and laugh with them before the actual presentation. This reduces their inhibitions, puts them in a more jovial mood, and reinforces that your presentation will probably be non-traditional.
  • Write your own introduction and make it funny, highlighting some of the more playful aspects of your own personality. I use things like:

–She has an M.P.H., which either stand for Masters of Public Health or Mistress of Public                humor.
–When she’s not speaking or writing, she wrangles wiener dog at her ranch.
–In a previous lifetime, she’s sure she left the iron on.

Use fun music to start and end your session, or to mark breaks.

Near the beginning of your presentation, highlight the productivity, creativity, team building, health, emotional, stress managing, or other benefits of what you’ll be asking them to do. This will address the concern of the more reticent people of the “reason” they should be involved.

Build love and support into the group and activities; discourage meanness disguised as playfulness. I usually tell my groups what things are off-limits, such as making fun of people, using sarcasm instead of humor, saying anything they wouldn’t want their boss or mother to hear, etc. You may also want to use this funny Carmen Miranda Rights statement.

Carmen Miranda Rights: You have the right to remain silent. You will probably not have as much fun or learn as much, but it is your right to sit quietly and observe until such time as you are ready to be part of the merriment.

As long as you aren’t a bully and don’t hurt anyone else while playing, nothing you say (or do) can or will be used against you in your workplace.

You have the right to a play coach. That is why I’m here – to encourage and inspire you to get in touch with your less serious side so that you can take a breather from the problems of your day and your life.

You also have the right to wear fruit on your head. (See cartoon above.)

Deal with people’s fears and concerns. One way to do this is to have them name them right up front. Make a list on a flip-chart under the heading, “Why I’m scared to play” or “Reasons my funny bone is broken.” It helps when people hear that they aren’t the only ones concerned about something. And if they can laugh at their fears together, it creates the kind of bonding that helps throughout their experience.

  • Keep a variety of games and fun activities in your toolbox so that you can pick things that are most likely to work for the group you face.
  • Give lots of praise and applause. It is amazing what people will do if you encourage them simply with recognition.

Forming groups

Once you set the stage for playfulness and fun, you will find that many of the games in this book require you to break down a large audience into smaller, manageable groups. This can cause a lot of trainers and speakers problems – how do you get the people from the same departments to spread out and meet new people? It can feel a lot like dealing with junior high school cliques when you’re faced with an audience who is most comfortable staying with the people they know best.

There are many easy and fun ways to form new groups. You can break them into teams by:

  • Color of shoes or socks.
  • Natural hair color.
  • Which of the following cartoons they like the most: Garfield, Charlie Brown, B.C., The Simpsons, South Park, Opus, none of the above.
  • Listing five barnyard animals (cow, sheep, chicken, pig, farm cat). Have them choose one, make that kind of noise, close their eyes and wander about until they find the rest of their herd or flock.
  • Using a quickie questionnaire with questions you can use throughout the day to break into different groups:
    —What’s your favorite color?
    —Paper or plastic?
    —How many children were in your family?
    —What’s your major hobby?
    —If you were a tree, what kind would you be?
    —Name your favorite ice cream.
    —What kind of dog did you grow up with? Or was it a cat?
    —Which type of music do you prefer?
    —Favorite cereal as a child?
  • Having them play Rock/Paper/Scissors and putting all the rocks, all the papers, all the scissors together in groups.
  • Players reach out and touch someone. Everyone closes their eyes and walks around until you say stop. Then they reach out hands (eyes still closed) until they find the right number of hands for the group.
  • Using toys. Have as many different types of toys as you want groups and have each person choose one. Their toy represents their group.
  • There is no end to the methods you can use to divide people up into smaller groups, although I don’t recommend sawing them in half. Just make it fun and quick and everything will flow from there.
Are you playing with me

Enjoy this blog? Try the book.

Leigh Anne Jasheway

Author Leigh Anne Jasheway

Don't Get Mad Get Funny

Another great book by Leigh Anne Jasheway

Grandma’s Marathon

This weekend saw the 40th running of Grandma’s Marathon.

In a city used to 70 being really, really hot, the weather was almost too warm this weekend for the 40th running of Grandma’s marathon.

The Duluth News Tribune reported on conditions:

Grandma’s uses the American College of Sports Medicine’s color-coded flag system. Both Saturday’s half-marathon at 6:15 a.m. and the full at 7:45 started with green flags, or low-risk. Those gave way to yellow (moderate), then red (high) and, starting at 11:30, black (extremely high). They are determined by the WetBulb Globe Temperature, which takes into account a combination of factors, including humidity, ambient temperature and radiant temperature, according to Ben Nelson, Grandma’s medical director.

Consequently, Nelson and the medical tent saw an increase in heat-related illness. They treated 369 people Saturday, up from a six-year low of 184 in 2015.

Photo by Clint Austin (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Photo by Clint Austin from the Duluth News Tribune

With all the tragedy and bad news it is difficult sometimes to find reasons to smile and laugh, an important part of living a wellness lifestyle. According to an article in the Huffington Post, “Laughter matters. It brings you back down to earth in heated moments, strengthens social bonds and calms your nervous system. Research suggests that laughter may even strengthen your immune system.” The reasons to cultivate happy thoughts are myriad. Here are some smile starters.

Here are some amazing statistics about Grandma’s Marathon 2016:

7,751 runners started the full marathon, 7,521 runners finished.
7,920 runners started the Gary Bjorklund half marathon, 7,919 runners finished.
Around 5,000+ volunteers kept the runner hydrated, healthy, and fed.
Around 60 to 70,000 people were connected to the Marathon this weekend. Duluth has a population the rest of the year of around 86,000.

These stats for the half marathon are amazing. All but 1 runner was able to finish the race – all 13.1 or so miles. Other races included The Whipper Snapper, and The William K. Irvin 5K.

Here are some photos, courtesy of Grandma’s Marathon’s 2016 website and Facebook page to help that smile along. Thanks, Kate, for permission to share them with our readers.

Are you training?

Are you training?

Weekly "Ready, Get Set" emails.

Weekly “Ready, Get Set” emails.

Grandma's whipper snapper

Running hard.

Kids love to run

Kids love to run

And they're off

And they’re off


Grandma's 2016 1

40th Anniversary Finishers’ Medal

Runner's in downtown Duluth...almost at the finish.

Runner’s in downtown Duluth…almost at the finish.

Coming in to the finish line

Coming in to the finish line

Finally...the finish line. First Place Women's 2016

Finally…the finish line. First Place Women’s 2016



 Grandma's 2016 happy finisher

Remember the importance of laughter and of exercise. I’d like to say that I’ve run the full or the half marathon, the 5K, the Whippersnapers, or even the Fun Run, but I haven’t. I have, however, lustily cheered family members as they did. I’ll stick with walking the dogs and do lots of laughing.

Playing Games Breaks Down Barriers by Leigh Anne Jasheway

You probably already know, or at least have a gut instinct, about why playing games with a group of people is a good idea. But you may have to deal with a manager, conference organizer, continuing education credits coordinator, or other serious type who needs to be convinced that playful games and a playful attitude will serve a legitimate purpose.

For all the serious, reserved, tentative, grim, somber, critical, scared, and sometimes fun-impaired people you may have to talk into being playing games (including, on occasion, yourself) are some of the major reasons play is important as a communication technique:

Fun sells and games are fun!

Advertisers know this. That’s why you don’t see hundreds of ads for beer presented with pie charts and a guy in a suit standing behind a podium. Preschool teachers know about fun too. You won’t catch them delivering a lecture to three year-olds. In fact, according to The National Institute for Play, all gifted parents, master teachers, and wise executives know that making things fun (and playing games are an easy way to do this) improves your chances of having an impact.

Audiences listen better.

When the message is presented with a unique and fun style folks listen better. Even when the subject material is boring, laughter, play and games can help improve listening and learning. In a study done by Randy Garner, Ph.D. at Sam Houston State University, students were more likely to recall a statistics lecture when it was interjected with jokes and funny stories. Laughter and fun engages audiences, whether they’re students, professionals, or members of your bowling league. And when an audience is engaged, they’re actively listening instead of writing out their grocery lists or playing solitaire on their laptop computer. Needless to say, it is more likely that they’ll actually learn something and remember it longer.

Games and play encourage the audience to be participants in the learning process.

Rather than sitting back and letting an expert do all the work, they become active in learning. Not only does it make it easier for learning the message you’re trying to teach, but this more active learning style may transfer over into other parts of their lives.

 When a presentation is fun, your audience may choose to learn more on their own afterward.

Wouldn’t it be great if you left a group of people curious to find out more. So curious perhaps, that they went right back to their offices and Goggled whatever it is you were discussing. Mark Shatz, Ph.D. and Frank LoSchiavo, PhD. have studied humor as a teaching technique for years. They found that when professors used jokes, cartoons, games, and top 10 lists in an online introductory Psych course, their students were more likely to log on to the class website afterward to learn more than when the lecture was presented drier than week-old toast in Phoenix. The same thing can happen to you.

The laughter generated by games helps circulate blood more effectively to all the organs, including the brain.

Since oxygen is carried by the blood, laughing boosts memory, cognition, and a whole host of other fancy brain-related words that basically mean we think better after laughing. And if you think about it, when is a group of people more likely to laugh – when someone in a suit drones on about something or when someone talks about the same thing while wearing a chicken suit and daring the audience to answer questions or playing a game to reinforce their point.

Just as when we were children, playing games together helps us bond and feel we belong to a group.

We’re much more willing to listen to messages, especially messages that might otherwise upset us, when we feel somehow connected both to the messenger and to the rest of the group. In fact, it has been my experience that the more you can get the group to be part of delivering the message itself (e.g., by using a game show format), the more likely it will be accepted. After all, we’re all more likely to believe something if we feel we played a part in its creation.

Playing improves the health of everyone involved.

Physical play provides aerobic conditioning, helps build strength, and improves the immune system. Visual and verbal games improve brain function and memory, and if accompanied by laughter, have all the same benefits as physical play. Studies of play in young mammals, including human children, also shows that play helps us learn to cope with the unexpected, improves resilience, and builds self confidence.

Games also help grown-ups express certain emotions.

Playing games helps adults express things that they usually keep bottled up and hidden away from their coworkers, bosses, customers, clients, etc. Being able to vent hostility, frustration and anger in acceptable and fun ways, not only allows people to move forward, it makes it more likely that in the future they will be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Research has shown that a playful spirit and a sense of humor that can be stimulated by games are two of the most important characteristics of highly effective teachers.

Both high school teachers chosen by their students as Teachers of the Year and trainers who receive the highest evaluation responses share these characteristics. From personal experience, I know this is true. The success of my career is based on the fact that my style of presenting messages is rated highly by everyone (even those who were originally afraid of the whole idea).

This should be enough to convince almost anyone that a more playful, fun approach to presenting almost any topic will be effective, memorable, well-evaluated, and possibly have a long term positive impact on how well an audience learns in the future. That’s the name of the game, folks.

The article above is from Are You Playing with Me playing cover.inddby Leigh Anne Jasheway.  Read more about her here. Her book is available from Whole Person Associates. Click on cover for more information.

Leigh Anne’s website: www.accidentalcomic.com/

Just for Laffs: Summer Separates the Boys from the Girls

Leigh Anne JashewayI was at a garage sale one afternoon last weekend when a man who looked to be in his eighties noticed a very large weed wacker near the door.

“That for sale?” he asked as he rushed over to it as fast as his cane would let him.

“Yep. We’re asking $5,” the woman answered with that I hope he’s not just toying with me tone that every garage sale organizer gets as the day wears on and it becomes clear than all that stuff, including the treadmill and the giant moose with blue eye shadow, is going to have to be packed up and dragged inside again.

“Sold,” the man said under his breath, hoping to transact the deal before his wife noticed. No such luck. A curly-haired sprite of a woman left the Jane Fonda videotapes she’d been perusing and appeared at his side in a flash, her tiny fists balled up on her hips.

“Bob, you can’t even lift that thing. Besides, we don’t have weeds in our apartment at Ya-Po-Ah Terrace.”

“I know, Bonnie. But it’s got three horses. Three! For $5. That’s a steal.”

Later that same day, I was at the mall with a friend when I overheard two women in the dressing room talking.

“I read that Jennifer Hudson went from a size 16 to a 6. If she can do that, I bet by July 4th weekend I’ll be skinny enough to get into this size 12 sundress! Only fifteen more pounds and I’m so there!”

“Me too! Look out world; soon there will be less of us to love!”

To me, these to stories capture how men and women’s experiences of summer differ: for the guys it’s all about bigger, faster, and louder, while most women try to become smaller and less conspicuous. It’s Godzilla versus The Shrinking Woman.

Here’s another case in point: while walking my dogs recently, a man waved to us from atop his riding lawnmower. He said something too, but the roar of the suburban tractor drowned it out. Perhaps what he said was “I know my lawn is only the size of a postage stamp and I have to back this mower into the street to turn it around, but I AM KING OF THE WORLD!”

I can see how a riding lawn mower would be a great idea for someone with several acres of grass, but I can’t for the life of me think of why guys need one to trim the two dandelions that have sprouted in the driveway cracks. I have more carpet than he has lawn, yet I have never lain awake at night wishing someone would invent a riding vacuum cleaner with an onboard chocolate dispenser. Of course, the testosterone coursing through my veins wouldn’t fill up a pink Hello Kitty thimble, so what do I know?

Speaking of bigger and louder, that definitely applies to fireworks. Don’t get me wrong – I love a beautiful fireworks show such as the one at AltonBakerParkon July 4th, with each explosion timed to the 1812 Overture or Lady Gaga’s Poker Face (that’s right, I’m up-to-date on my musical references, thanks to Glee). But the guys can never get enough of things that go boom in the night. I once had a neighbor who stuck leftover firecrackers under his weeds in an attempt to blow them sky high. He was happy with the result too, despite the fact that he ended up singeing off most of his eyebrows. Most women are happy to settle for pretty – and quiet – sparklers and leave our eyebrow maintenance to the professionals.

Of course, women’s summertime pursuit of trying to achieve the impossible is just as dangerous. I’m totally onboard with staying fit and healthy, but most of us can do that in the average-sized body we’re meant to have. My personal feeling is that zero is an imaginary number and if you diet and exercise your way there, you’ll disappear. I like there to be enough of me to cause a commotion or at least hold up my sparkler.

While the guys are blowing things up and marveling at how much horsepower their new riding BBQ has (laugh now, but you know it’s only a matter of time), many women are turning down potato salad and popsicles because they have too many calories, and don’t even get us started on the trans fats!

As much as the men’s toys may annoy us, we women would do well to take a page from their handbook (they’re not reading it anyway, because as well all know, men don’t need instructions). Let’s spend more time this summer focusing on all the power we have under our hood and not on the size of our chassis.

© 2012 Leigh Anne Jasheway

Converting Anger to Laughter

Leigh Anne JashewayThe name of my newsletter has always been Don’t Get Mad, Get Funny. This is also the title of my first book on using humor to lighten up about stress and the topic title of my most popular keynote presentation. I’m not trying to say that anger isn’t a valid and valuable emotion—it’s just that too many of us go there far too often and for tiny little stressors that don’t deserve our anger energy.

I once saw a billboard alongside I-5 that read, “Anger is one letter away from danger.” I believe when we overuse anger, we do endanger ourselves and others. A mind (and body) in a constant state of fight or flight wears out more quickly than a mind (and body) that find ways to lighten up and let go.

The good news is that we humans naturally turn our anger (and frustration, annoyance, irritation and other lesser forms of being disturbed by circumstances around us) into laughter. Eventually. Some of the funniest stories we tell on ourselves were things that got our goat (or llama or alpaca, whichever you choose) when they happened, but by virtue of the passage of time, we’re able to gain a better perspective and see the humorous side of things. The problem is that eventually is too long to wait. If you’ve recently been to the DMV or tried calling your cable company, you know what I mean. You don’t want to burn out by the time your natural sense of humor replaces your angry feelings.

The question is, how can you speed up the process? Here are my five best tips:

  1. Distract yourself!In one study, two fake traffic jams were created (because there aren’t enough real ones out there J). In one, drivers were left to fuss and fume on their own. In the other, the researchers created three distractions—warm & fuzzy (a puppy being walked alongside the vehicles), sexy (a good looking man and woman walking by), and funny (someone doing stupid human tricks nearby). Researchers studied both groups and counted how often they showed outward displays of anger (honking, yelling, stomping around outside their cars, shooting the finger, etc). In the group with the distractions, angry responses were significantly reduced and the type of distraction that worked best was humor. That’s right, humor beat puppies!Have plenty of silly, stupid, funny distractions in the places where you know your anger response gets turned on the most—your car, your office, at home next to the phone for those times you need to call to complain about things that don’t work.
  2. Count on basic math. If you decide to spend 30 more minutes a day laughing (by inviting funny friends to lunch, watching a funny TV show, reading a funny book, etc.), basic math dictates that there are now 30 fewer minutes available for you to be angry (unless, of course, you set your alarm for 2 a.m. so you can have more time to fume. If that’s the case, you may need more help than this newsletter can provide).
  3. Google it. The next time you feel your head is about to blow up with rage over some issue you know intellectually is not worthy of your anger energy, look online for funny stories and videos that relate to this same issue. I recently broke my nose by walking into a plate glass door (yes, I’m that cliché!) and when the bleeding finally subsided, I found four really funny videos of other people doing the same thing. The value of this exercise is that is allows you to find the humor in your specific situation faster by removing you from the equation. We always find it easier to laugh at others mistakes and problems than our own.
  4. Be angry funny. No, this isn’t like Tyra Banks’ concept of Ugly Pretty on America’s Next Top Model. Rather than expressing anger in your usual way, find more laughable options. Instead of shooting the finger, make up a silly hand or arm gesture (Chicken Dance, anyone?) Curse in pirate or a foreign language. By circumventing your usual responses, your brain will start to acknowledge the silliness of your negative emotions quicker.
  5. Write three jokes about it. As a comedy writer, if I didn’t get frustrated, annoyed, confused, and embarrassed all the time, I wouldn’t have anything to write about. When people are trying to be funny on purpose, they almost always rely on negative emotions as the source of their comedy (think of your favorite comedy TV show or movie and ask yourself what it’s really about). The next time you’re unnecessarily upset about something, take five minutes to write three jokes. They don’t even have to be good—it’s the process that’s important.  1) I hit that plate glass door so hard, local seismologists reported an earthquake. 2) I didn’t mind the embarrassment and the bleeding, but the pointing and laughing bothered me. Of course, it was me who was pointing and laughing, so I could have stopped it if I wanted to. 3) For a week afterward, I had two black eyes. Everyone thought I had “work done.” Now they tell me how much younger I look.

Try these simple tips and see if you don’t let go of some of the unnecessary anger in your daily life.

© 2012 Leigh Anne Jasheway

Laughter: The Best Stress Buster

Our minds have an amazing gift; imagination and the ability to laugh are perhaps the greatest talents we have. Laughter relieves tension and gives you a new perspective. It allows you to see yourself as separate from your stress. I’m not suggesting you drop your life’s work and try life as a stand-up comic, but try laughing at the quirks in life rather than letting them stress you. You don’t have to try to be funny, just enjoy life’s inconsistencies. If you think about the details of your life, you’ll notice things about it are pretty funny. Example: cleaning my kitchen results in the dishwasher in pieces in the living room. Was it frustrating at first? Yes. Is it funny in retrospect? Yes. Tell others about them and they’re sure to get a kick out of it. You can change complaints into jokes – something everyone will enjoy more. Or, use your imagination; paint silly pictures in your mind when you need to snap out of a bad mood. Picture a man walking down the street. He’s wearing an expensive three-piece suit, marching with dignity through a rainstorm. Over his head, he holds an umbrella, except it’s missing the cover; there’s no cloth or plastic, just bare metal spokes. He’s wearing a blue tie that’s bleeding dye all over his white shirt. Now change his suit pants for shorts, tall white socks and cowboy boots. He meets someone on the street. What does the other person look like? What happens next?