You’ve just had a bad day, a stressful event just occurred, or you’re just in a funk. Why in the world would you want to laugh now? Well, my friends, though it may feel paradoxical at the time, this is when you need laughter the most. When you don’t feel like laughing…this is when you need to dig deep, laugh, and let it transform you in a positive and healing way. We can’t control what life throws at us, but we can control our reaction to it, and at times when we feel a bit beat up by life’s challenges, laughter can be a powerful medicine, and it is in those challenging times that it is at its greatest strength.
Why is this the case? Well, first, let’s talk about the limbic system. The limbic system, or the part of the brain associated with sending signals to the mind and body indicating how to respond to various stimuli and events, is constantly making associations with physical objects, certain events, or certain experiences. If it makes a good association with something, then you are more likely to respond in a positive manner (physically, emotionally, and mentally) to that something in the future. On the flip side of that, if it makes a negative association with something, then you are more likely to respond to that something with physical ailments, fear, anxiety, depression, or the like, to that something in the future.
Furthermore, the limbic system is constantly listening to and following our lead if we are repeating a certain behavior or response to something again and again. Hence, if something negative happens to us, how we choose to respond to that something matters big time!
For example, say someone you respect or love has just said or done something to hurt you. If you respond in anger, hold a grudge, and/or say hurtful things back to that person, then your limbic system is going to see that and take note, and it will be more likely to hold onto that anger, both physically and mentally, and more likely to respond in an unhealthy and hurtful way to others that may upset you in the future in similar situations. However, if you respond in love and choose empathy and forgiveness, your limbic system will see that and take note, and it will be more likely to respond in love, or in a healthy way for both the mind and the body, towards others in the future…even in difficult or trying interactions (side note here: it’s not always easy to choose love in those types of situations, but you guys, it is imperative to do so – please always, always, always choose love). The more you repeat a conscious response to a certain situation, person, or event, the more likely that response will continue to occur in the future.
Now, we can get to the heart of this. Why should we laugh when we don’t feel like laughing? When we go through a stressful or triggering event, this is when the limbic system is paying the most attention. It is on high-alert, and working furiously to make sense of the event and how it should respond or tell the body and mind to respond. It is especially attentive to our conscious reaction to that event and it is using that reaction to make new associations, strengthen existing associations, or to replace existing associations with new ones. The science-y explanation for this is that when we are in a triggered state, this is when the brain is the most neuroplastic, where neuroplastic just means moldable or changeable.
Hence, if we’ve just gone through something stressful, and everything in us is telling us not to laugh, this is a golden opportunity to train that limbic system to react to this stressful event, and future stressful events, in a positive manner by laughing. Laughing tells our limbic system that all is good in this moment. The brain does not know the difference between real and fake laughter, so even if we mimicking laughter, we are still telling the limbic system that even though bad things happen, we can still respond in a positive, hopeful, joyful, and loving manner. By laughing in the midst of adversity, we are training our limbic system to respond to that adversity in a healthy way, to not overreact, and to keep things in perspective.
The more that we use laughter to respond to stressful events in this positive fashion, the easier it becomes, because the limbic system strengthens that association of reacting in a positive and healthy way to life’s ups and downs. This is extremely healing and life-changing, because not only does it allow the limbic system to make positive and healthy associations, but it can also rewrite, rewire, or reprogram old unhealthy thinking patterns, coping mechanisms, and negative associations.
The old adage that “Laughter is the best medicine” rings so true here. It can literally be used as a sort of medicine to heal an impaired limbic system, negative thought patterns, coping mechanisms, or old behaviors that no longer serve us by reacting to the stimuli that triggers those things with laughter. It can also be used as a preventative medicine of sorts in this same area, in that if we go through something stressful that we haven’t gone through before, we can use laughter to tell our limbic system how to respond to this now and train it to respond in a similar manner in the future. Laughter gives us the power to wire ourselves towards love, light, and positivity even in the darkest of times. What an amazing blessing!
Thus, the next time that you are thinking that you don’t want to laugh, please, I beg of you, LAUGH. Use it to heal. Use it to transform. Use it to truly bring about peace within you and out into the world around you. Sending love and laughter to all of you!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor a medical professional. The information presented on this site is for educational purposes only. One should always consult with their doctor or medical professional before taking on any sort of new exercise program.