Laugh the Pain Away: How Humor Can Help Us Cope With Life’s Issues

Life got you down in the dumps? Try laughing it off. No, seriously.

Humor has been reported as an effective method of coping with all of life’s difficult experiences. Not only is laughter a natural stress reducer and symptom reliever, but the giggles also increase your life expectancy — that way you get to live longer in this hard life! [Insert laugh here.]  

Whether you enjoy a deep belly laugh from watching your favorite comedian, or you are in the “fake it till you make it” group, laughter eases our pain.  Humor therapy, also known as laughter therapy, is officially both complementary and mainstream medicine — and the best part, IT’S FREE!  See, free healthcare does exist! [Laugh again…please?]

Laughter carried me through what were probably some of the darkest points of my life.

I speak from personal experience when I say that humor makes the most painful moments bearable.

Laughter carried me through what were probably some of the darkest points of my life. When I wanted to run away from all the bullying in elementary school, I laughed about it. When I just couldn’t handle the insurmountable pain that accompanies the identity crisis of living as Muslim women in America, I laughed about it. To this day, I laugh; actually I cackle. In the middle of arguments and fights, my mind just can’t help itself from cracking a joke here and there. And to my delight, those little off the cuff jokes ease the tension and pave a pathway for better, more heartfelt communication.

Inspired by the power of laughter and the need to satisfy my inner stage diva, I decide to take a shot at stand up comedy. In the heart of Georgetown, DC on a Friday night, I took the stage with the intention of bring the healing capabilities of humor to everyone, or at least make someone fake chuckle (yes, I am taking to all you “fake it till you make it” people).

Nervous, heart beating, sweat stains developing, I took the mic and began telling my first joke: “I am originally from a small town in Egypt where donkeys, humans, and livestock all shared the same roads. When I moved to Washington DC though, everything changed. Transportation is different — more efficient, actually; people look different — more white; and the food tastes different — more bland. But the one thing that stayed the same:  There are still plenty of animals in DC!”

The crowd couldn’t stop laughing. I am still not sure if my jokes were that funny, or if it was the booze in everyone’s system that just lifted the mood (most definitely the booze). Regardless, I had a fantastic time making others laugh.

Following my three minutes of fame, I began to try incorporate laughter into my daily life.  Yes, it only took that one time to make this a lifetime commitment.  We commit to people (men) just as fast; why not hobbies too?!  Everywhere I went, I walked around with a mic and speakers — ready to pop a joke at any moment.

Just kidding, I didn’t do that, although that would make for an interesting life.

Rather, I began to joke around my friends, who were not particularly happy. I distinctly remember one of them telling me “I forgot what my laugh even sounds like.”  Feeling gutted by this statement, I wondered how many of us are out there feeling depressed, and unable to just giggle, or smile?

If you find yourself missing or forgetting what it sounds and feels like to laugh, here are some helpful tips to get you snorting, giggling, and chuckling again.

1) Find what makes you laugh.

For many, going to a comedy club is enough to make them forget about the constant pain they are in. It’s a safe environment to have a simple laugh for a bit. If going out is not your thing, putting on a comedy show can truly help when you just need to let it all out — your laughter, that is. Some great comedians of color, like Ali Wong, Aziz Ansari, Retta, and many more shape their comedy so that people of color can relate. If you are interested, here is a link for the funniest COC (Comedians of Color).  

2) Poke fun at the serious stuff.

Okay, so this advice can be a bit controversial. Some say it’s degrading to make fun of something serious. While I agree that some issues — especially very important ones — should be taken seriously, I still believe, though, that too much seriousness can do harm. I make fun of my personal relationship issues all the time, but this is my way of laughing while still calling out the problem. Sarcasm, when practiced properly, ensures laughter and activism.

3) Fake it till you make it.

This is probably the oldest advice in the book. Faking it as a strategy has somehow been used as a popular go-to method for a wide variety of issues. While I do not support faking your happiness, on occasion, a forced chuckle or a smile could trigger a feeling that may have long been forgotten.

All that being said, don’t let your laugh sit there and collect dust — let it out, tickle it out; do what it takes, because I assure you, we all want to hear you laugh!