By Chad Patrick Shannon
How would you like to accomplish all of the following in one simple act?
1. Relax more
2. Better your heart health
3. Find pain relief
4. Get stronger
5. Live longer
The simple act: laugh more. Studies have shown laughter works as a muscle relaxer, increases blood flow, offers pain relief, and bolsters the immune system.
One study in Norway showed that those who laughed more outlived those who didn’t.
Where then, can you get more humor in my life? It’s all around you. Your relationships – spouses, friends, parents, kids, co-workers, etc. Yet, we often allow routines and ruts impede our closest relationships. We can get caught thinking about the future or dwelling over the past, which drags on enjoying the moment. When you hang out in the present time, you’ll find yourself being more spontaneous, and having a grand old time doing so.
Okay, but how?
First, a major trap. Finding entertainment in the world of handheld televisions and endless access to content can be so easy. One can go to Netflix and find their favorite hilarious film or pick from a whole swipeable row of stand-up acts. No doubt, you can be laughing within minutes, but you still aren’t engaging with your mate, pal, your parent, or kid.
So, without further ado, here are five screen-free ways to inject humor into your life.
1. When taking a long car ride, play an improv comedy game.
There are really only two rules to improv. “Yes, and.” The “yes” part – always agree with the other person. The “and” part – add something to what they offered you. That’s it. I’ll give you the easiest game to play. Build a sentence together one word at a time. As the sentence grows, you repeat all the words given. My wife and I have had many laughs over this one.
Wife: The dog
Me: The dog dentist
Wife: The dog dentist failed –
Now we have a good set up. What’s a dog dentist? What did he fail? And what will happen next? The games ends when one party doesn’t repeat the sentence correctly. The sentences can be funny but the big laughs come when the person mixes up the words.
2. While waiting at a doctor’s office or for dinner to be ready, doodle with your loved one.
You’re in a full doctor’s office and your eight-year-old kid appears bored out of her mind. Grab a piece of paper and create a world one doodle at a time. No agendas, just a willingness to be zany. Perhaps your child draws a horse. Then maybe you draw a shoe store. You’ll laugh drawing it and your kid will probably giggle and add something funny too, like a scooter under the horse. By then, you’ll have engaged in improv and injected humor into your life.
3. When waiting on a bus or a plane to take off, or in any other public place with a lot of people, make up funny stories about why people are behaving a certain way. Maybe you and your spouse have an hour delay. Spot a conversation 50 feet away and suggest a story.
Example – Wife picks a couple talking intensely. The Husband starts the story:
Husband – He’s explaining the importance of his underwear.
Wife – She’s trying to explain that they had to pack in a hurry, hence only blue boxers on this trip.
Husband – He suggests that the only boxers that make him feel confident are the red ones.
And this can go on forever, with new details, directions or even dialogue being added to the scene. I’m betting you added the next turn in this story, and smiled doing so.
4. Take a look at old photos, or a family album with someone. Invariably there’ll be goofy photos and reasons to smile. Sometimes, a great old and humorous story will come up.
True story: I once came home to find my wife and mother laughing hysterically. Apparently, my wife had discovered that I looked quite serious in many of my childhood pictures. With each new serious photo they found, they’d giggled more. Suffice it to say they both had very healthy hearts that night.
5. Take an improv, standup comedy, or a comedy sketch writing class. You’ll practice your “Yes, and” and pick up new games to play with your friends and family. At your weekly practice, you’ll be laughing. And most improv schools have regular shows, which will create even more laughs.
Give any one of these activities a try and let humor into your life. Your healing body and mind will thank you for it. As an added benefit, you’ll find your relationships even more rewarding. I guarantee it.
CHAD PATRICK SHANNON is a freelance writer, story consultant, and attorney. He has written articles, film scripts, comedy sketches, plays, and historical/legacy pieces, but he couldn’t have asked for a better subject for his first full-length book, The Best Seven Years of My Life.
In addition to his own writing, Chad consults with writers, attorneys, and healthcare organizations to develop story structure and narrative techniques. He has also written and directed three award-winning short films. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and creative better half, Catherine, along with their dog, Stella.