BY ANDY ROMAN, LMHC, MS, RN
A few years ago, I was involved in a lawsuit, and it triggered a growing, ongoing anxiety I just couldn’t shake. One day on my way to my lawyer’s office, I felt overwhelmed by negative thoughts. I crossed the lobby in a trance, pushed the button on the wall, and entered the elevator. Playfulness takes practice.
In the mirrored walls of the elevator, I could see my reflection. I saw the furrow in my brow, and how serious I looked. For some reason, it made me laugh. In fact, I couldn’t stop laughing. I was so visibly riddled with worry that the only relief was laughter. I laughed my way into my lawyer’s office and found humor (in the form of absurdity) in the rest of the proceedings. Even when I went in front of the judge, I felt calm. Eventually, I was acquitted. I had laughed my way through a rough time. The worry I’d been plagued with before hadn’t helped a bit.
Once my ex-wife and I found ourselves in a medieval church in Spain during a recital by chanting monks. We needed to leave before the service was over to catch a train. We got up quietly to tiptoe out and our sandals started squeaking loudly with every step. At first, we felt awkward, as people cast disapproving looks our way, but then we got the giggles and happily squeaked our way to the exit. Outside, we burst into laughter, and we still laugh with the memory of it. (It’s worth mentioning that our sandals never squeaked before or since.)
You probably go into your office elevator or see the fire hydrant outside your apartment every day. If you can turn those things into laugh zones, you’ll have a positive memory to associate with them, even when you’re in a bad mood. Small moments of joy like this make a huge difference over the span of a day, the span of a life.
Kids don’t get the “seriousness” of the adult world. They maintain a playful relationship with everything. Kids play with food, they play at school, they play at church. Playfulness mirrors a built-in lightness of being that’s wholesome and healthy. It just takes practice. Creating these laugh zones fulfills our innate need to play.
Joy is infectious, contagious, and there's no cure. We spread it every day. Embrace it!