Like clockwork, people are composing their lists of New Year’s resolutions, and at the same time they’re ending this year with some of the same problems, frustrations or worries of past years. They want to take a brighter outlook and ride those resolutions to a higher quality of life in the New Year – but inevitably, familiar issues get them down year after year.
How can this New Year be different? How can you stay more positive and hopeful despite problems that won’t go away when the big ball drops in Times Square?
“Making laughter a part of your every-day life is the answer. When life gets tough, laughter begins,” says Lee Volpe, a humorist and author of Black Sheep Tries Bleach: Humorous Stories to Ease Life’s Growing Pains.
“We all have humor inside us. It is so healthy to use it in a variety of ways. When you really deconstruct some things in your life that may be problems or annoyances, you can creatively come at them with laughter, and your whole outlook changes.”
Mentally and physically, the benefits of laughter are many, Volpe says, and she lists five of those benefits that can help you make 2018 a happier New Year:
• Reduces stress. Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones. such as cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline), and it boosts the immune system. Science has further shown that after a good laugh, muscles can be relaxed for up to 45 minutes. “Laughter is a free stress-management strategy, and in today’s pressurized, problem-filled world, there’s a big premium on that,” Volpe says. “Laughter is often the best kind of therapy.”
• Burns calories. Everybody wants to lose weight in the New Year, right? “Laugh hard enough and you may be able to skip some gym visits – and who doesn’t want to do that,” Volpe says. Studies show that a good stream of laughter can burn 40 calories in 30 minutes. “I saw where you really can burn 75 calories in 30 minutes by banging your head against a wall,” Volpe says. “Knock yourself out.”
• Becomes a coping mechanism. Laughter makes us feel good. Instead of complaining about life’s frustrations, trying to laugh about them helps. “Humor helps you keep a positive outlook through difficult situations,” Volpe says. “When something extremely frustrating or depressing occurs, try to take the longer view and envision that one day you’ll be able to look back on it and laugh. But why not laugh right now? You also feel stronger. This approach will also make you better equipped to deal with future negative events less stressfully.”
• Brings people together, strengthens relationships. Laughter connects us with others. You can’t enjoy a laugh with other people unless you take the time to engage with them. “It improves the quality of social interaction you have with your friends, co-workers, and acquaintances,” Volpe says. “The old saying is, ‘Laughter is contagious.’ If you bring more laughter into your life, you can help others around you to laugh more and reap the benefits of humor, which in turns helps them with their problems. It makes other people happy, because it’s very infectious, just like anger is.”
“We all need more laughter with the way the world is these days,” Volpe says. “Maybe you can start by laughing at your own New Year’s resolutions list. For a lot of people it turns out to be a joke anyway. And it doesn’t have to be a new year to start a new day, a new outlook, for yourself.”