Anyone who has seen “Stripes” (1981) knows and loves this classic quote by Drill Sgt. Hulka to a character named Francis a/k/a “Psycho.” During a meet and greet with all of the recruits, Psycho gives them a long list of things they can’t say or do to him or else he’ll “kill em.” Psycho concludes his list by saying “Anyone calls me Francis, I’ll kill em” to which Sgt. Hulka mockingly replies, “Lighten up Francis.”

Whenever my family, friends or colleagues seem to be getting worked up about their jobs or their lives, we often use this quote to let each other know “Okay, just stop… you need to settle down.” And as soon that classic line comes out, we inevitably laugh together and the person who was stressed out instantly becomes more relaxed.

Sometimes we take life or work too seriously and we get caught up in unnecessary drama.  In those times, we need to be reminded to take it down a notch and to enjoy ourselves.  Laughing is a great way to bring us back down to reality.

Laughing can also help us set aside issues that may be bothering us.  It can take our mind off things so we can get some distance from a problem or situation and then be able to deal with it more effectively later on.  Looking at it this way, laughter not only takes our minds off our burdens, it also opens us up to new possibilities to solve some of our issues or problems.

Laughing is also a great cleanser for the mind and body.  It opens you up to feeling happiness and joy.

Scientific research has shown that laughter has a positive affect on human physiology.  Laughter:

  • Reduces pain. Our bodies produce pain-killing hormones called endorphins in response to laughter.
  • Strengthens immune function. A good laugh increases production of T-cells, interferon and immune proteins called globulins.
  • Decreases stress. We produce a hormone called cortisol when we are under stress. Laughter can significantly lower cortisol levels and return the body to a more relaxed state.

Laughter can also have a positive impact on our emotional well being.  Laughter can help make life’s problems seem smaller and put them in a more healthy perspective.

So how can we bring more levity into our lives?  Here are some common experiences where it would help to learn to laugh:

  1. When you’re caught up in some drama. Be cognizant when your life has become like a soap opera (he did that, she said this, you did what??) When you find yourself about to engage in a melodramatic act, take a step back and laugh (at the situation, at the other person, or even at yourself). A good laugh will help you relax and may put an end to a foolish act.
  2. When you’re feeling awkward and out of place. Take yourself less seriously when you are nervous or anxious in a new situation. If you relax and take a moment to enjoy yourself and your surrounding. You will give off a good vibe and look more confident.  If you laugh and have fun, people will feel more at ease with you and you will feel more comfortable in that situation.
  3. When things seem hopeless. If you are down and full of despair, try to watch a funny sitcom, call your funniest friend or watch a classic comedy (anything starring Will Farrell is a good start). Giving yourself up to laughter naturally makes you more flexible.  When you are flexible, you can see things differently, and a fresh perspective can inspire you come up with new solutions.
  4. When you find yourself whining or complaining. When you are whining or complaining, you are being negative.  When you are negative, you are naturally feeling down.  The way to feel up is by turning around your attitude.  How do you do that? – by having a good laugh.

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Try not to let all of the frustrations, disappointments and tribulations in life weigh you down.  When you feel yourself turning negative, have a good laugh instead.  If you lighten up, like Francis, you may realize that what was bothering you was not that big a deal after all or you may be even able to open up your mind and come up with a positive solution to whatever is troubling you.