Since 2003, I have been laughing with more than 30,000 people from over 1,000 different companies in Denmark. In my laughter classes, whether I’m laughing with factory workers or lawyers, I always ask people the same question: “Why do you think we stop laughing as we grow older?”
Through my classes, I have discovered many excuses for why we stop laughing, but here are the top five reasons why we forget to laugh, and how we can overcome them!
1. Not living in the moment
Laughter involves an acceptance of the present. When you laugh, you let go of thought and inhibition — laughter is a reaction to a stimulus of the moment. This is why laughter is the greatest medicine against stress, as you can't laugh while your mind is preoccupied with stressful thoughts.
One reason adults don't laugh as much as children do is because many of us are preoccupied with the thoughts of the future. We rationalize that our work today holds the key to our happiness tomorrow. Yet with this mindset, we will never experience happiness.
My Suggestion: Don’t give all of your power to the future. Give some, but not all. Instead, give more power to this moment and be grateful for your life as it is now. This will give you more energy, power, and laughter.
Exercise: Make a list of all the things you're grateful for as of today. Start each day, your first moment of the day, being grateful for your life.
2. Not being playful
A simple reason children laugh more than adults is that they haven’t learned to be serious yet. Being serious goes hand in hand with worrying, and we as adults can easily become worried about our lives.
It’s fine to worry about real-life problems, but, we tend to worry about some things that we really don’t need to. A child’s worry-free lifestyle allows him to be more creative and susceptible to new information. Children’s playful state permits them to learn much more than the average adult.
My Suggestion: Allow yourself time to play. In this state, you will find yourself being more creative, energized, and happier.
Exercise: Make a list of all the serious thoughts you have in your life. Take time to truly evaluate them, and see if you are spending time worrying in areas that you really don’t need to be.
3. Not being authentic
All of our expressions have a purpose. Laughter, sadness, and anger are important expressions of the human condition. Yet, we often fear openly expressing ourselves due to the worry of others’ judgment.
Instead of releasing our anger, we tend to suppress it. Authentic anger can be easily expressed in 30 seconds, but if we suppress it and allow it to build, it can turn into a monster. The same goes for sadness. Your need to cry is a human response, and by denying yourself this need due to fear of what others may think, then you are bottling up the bad emotions that will prevent you from expressing the good ones.
We need to realize that, at times, our fear is completely irrational. The fear that others may judge you — people who may have no involvement in your life — makes no sense. Why should others have such a power over your life? In order to take control of your own life and happiness, you need to come to terms with this fear. Only then will you be able to authentically express yourself.
My Suggestion: Make peace with your fears.
Exercise: Write down the fears you have in your life. Evaluate which ones are dependent on other people, and take back the power into your own life.
4. Not being able to deal with imperfection
When we laugh, we let go of our thoughts — more importantly, we let go of our ego. As we become adults, we tend to create strict parameters as to how people and things should be — including ourselves. It is easy to become lost in the ideas of perfection, and it leads us to demand too much of others and ourselves. We shun imperfection, and dwell more on mistakes rather than successes. An ego may be useful at times, but let it grow too big, and it will suppress your ability to recover from some stumbles.
My Suggestion: Allow for mistakes. Forgive quickly. Repeat. Fear of making mistakes is fear of being creative, funny, and out of the box.
Exercise: Look back and write down five mistakes you made this week. Realize that they are most likely not as big of a deal as your ego has made them out to be. Laugh at your overreactions.
5. Believing that we need a reason to laugh
The reason I use children as role models for laughter is because we can all connect with them. Remember when you were a child and you would laugh for no reason? As we become adults, we have a tendency to get stuck in our minds.
The reason we laugh is because we think of something funny, or hear a joke. We laugh with our minds. But true laughter is a reaction of the body. Children can laugh continuously for the sake of laughing — it truly is the best example of how laughter is a release from thought.
You may have experienced it a few times in adulthood, when you start to laugh and can’t stop, just because you are laughing too hard — a real ab-workout of a laugh. Those are the moments when you're in touch with your true laughing self. This is how you connect with yourself as a whole entity, rather than just a conscious thought.
My Suggestion: Laugh for no reason. As you accept all that you are — you become free. Freedom is your true power.
Exercise: Make the decision to trust your body. Surrender to your laughter this week. Let go of your mind and laugh for no reason.