Laughing on a whim is a useful life skill and is probably good for you, not to mention that a gut-busting laugh is fun. The saying “laughter is the best medicine” makes sense, as a few hearty guffaws will release dopamine and endorphins in your body, which are the “feel good” chemicals in the brain. Laughter creates a natural high, leading to a better mood and greater creativity.
Children laugh a lot more than adults do. In a sense, grownups are robbed of life’s greatest pleasure — laughing at farts, boogers, or oddly shaped rocks. Movies, video games, comedy clubs, and other forms of entertainment can spark a chortle, but that takes money and opportunity.
It is possible to learn to laugh more. A first step is to take a step back and not take any situation too seriously. There’s always going to be stresses and struggles, but the world won’t literally end if you get a fresh perspective. It’s okay to drift into a happy place for five minutes — even if it means you pretend to be serious. The invention of the “poker face” is awesome for card games, but it’s also useful for having fun without anyone noticing.
Humor can be tuned by reading or listening to comedians. If you want to heal a broken foot, see a doctor, but if you want balm for a broken heart, see a comedian. Comics are real pros and offer an antidote to despair. Writer David Sedaris, for example, offers uncomfortable, almost horrifying life stories that are flat out hilarious. He makes readers scream with laughter and shoot soda out of their noses. Standup comics like Louis C.K. are masters at making the audience slap tables and cry with laughter. You may also want to revisit the classics like Groucho Marx or Monty Python’s Flying Circus to revel in brilliant silliness.
Behind much of comedy is a real understanding of how “the funny” works. Stephen Colbert, who is a brilliant comedian, learned his craft in improv theaters. Improv comedy is built upon certain rules which are meant to amplify, not squash, humor. In fact, practicing improv is done by playing games, and grown adults get permission to crawl on the floor and blurt out silly things. Embracing the ridiculous and accepting every idea as valid is fundamental to comedy and wouldn’t have given the world the “Ministry of Silly Walks” or “Dick in a Box.”
While babies get to laugh at everything, adults get to laugh at what is intellectually ridiculous. There are absurd things everywhere — from Donald Trump to awful pop-up screens. In the frustrations and injustices, there is reason to hope. Even as the world seems to be going to hell, there will always be a reason to laugh.