One of my hobbies is making myself laugh. It’s a wonderful hobby because it’s totally innocent and free, totally pointless. That is, I have no higher aims, no end goals, no big plan.
There are areas of my life where I have those big plans, where it makes sense to do so, but I believe it’s good and healthy to have aspects of life where there are no plans, where there’s just simple, easy fulfillment, for no particular reason—just because.
Laughing is like that for me. It is joy in the here and now.
A viable measure of happiness is the rate at which you giggle to yourself throughout your day. A little laughter makes all of my problems seem lighter. It puts things in context. Physiologically, phenomenologically, it’s just like a good cry, but tinged by happiness and joy instead of sadness or grief.
Laughter is an excellent, enjoyable way to practice noticing impermanence. It doesn’t build to something bigger, except fulfillment in this very moment. A laugh begins, and it ends, and we are happier for laughing.
Laughter can be a practice. You can cultivate laughter and joy, your taste in comedy and your sense of humor.
You can cultivate smiling. Practice smiling, smile often, enjoy the joy that comes with smiling. Let it seep into your skin and your heart and your bones.
You can cultivate laughter. Let laughter into your body. Laugh often, laugh deeply, as deeply and as often as you can. Enjoy and enjoy and enjoy.
It turns out you can literally expand your physical capacity to laugh. If you’re laughing, laugh a little extra. Laugh a little harder, a little longer. Give yourself the gift of a little more laughter.
One of the best things I’ve done for myself in this practice is to give myself total, complete, unabashed permission to cackle to myself whenever I feel so moved—letting full and complete laughter shake my body without needing to justify or explain myself to anyone who might happen to be nearby.
You can cultivate humor—taste in what is funny to you, knowing places you can go and people you can be around that make you laugh. Tell jokes often, to yourself and others. Practice it as an art and enjoy it as a hobby.
If you find something funny, or make a joke, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one laugh. You can return again and again to whatever it is that you find funny—you can laugh more and more.
“Really enjoy it” applies to laughter and humor, too. You can take the time to savor the sensations and experience of joy and laughter and humor, moment-by-moment, not discarding the pleasure as small or ordinary, but finding deep satisfaction in it.
As I practice this, it just keeps getting better and better for me. I am learning to laugh more deeply and more fully—to the point of unlocking involuntary maniacal-intensity-grade laughter—and I’m enjoying myself more and more when laughing. Heroes can have a little villainous laughter, as a treat. The sheer joy cannot be stopped.
Over time, I’ve found that I really have to be in touch with my silly side to be happy. I have to be laughing and making jokes, or I take myself too seriously—I become stiff and cold, unhappy with myself and detached from others.
Not all of my jokes are funny to others. Many of them aren’t. That’s ok. I don’t need to share my jokes to find them funny, or laugh. If a joke makes me laugh, it’s worth it.
Opinions differ about this, but for myself, I don’t mind swearing, at least of the gentle exclamatory kind—not the more extreme swears, or slurs or hate speech.
I don’t like mean jokes, or jokes that hurt people’s feelings. Right Speech applies here, too. You can’t always avoid hurting people with your jokes, but you can intentionally avoid jokes that you know ahead of time are hurtful or cruel. There are plenty of things to laugh about and enjoy, even if you limit yourself in this way!
I love dark humor. Being able to laugh about something means that it doesn’t have as much power over you. There’s a truth in every joke, and a laugh in every truth.
Without fail, I find my funniest jokes are the ones I non-do—the ones that arrive spontaneously, without thinking or planning. Phenomenologically, it feels like these jokes come from my abdomen, not my head. And the joy is felt in my gut, too.
Psychologically, I think I stopped making jokes as a child or teenager, because I was afraid of people being angry at me. It feels safer to take that risk now, as an adult, but I have to take care of that part of me that fears anger.
Every joke made is a risk taken. I generally have absolutely no idea how jokes will be received before I make them. Will they be funny? Will they be stale? Will I regret making the joke for the rest of my life? There’s only one way to find out!
Be brave now, T! Make silly jokes! Make raunchy jokes! Offend some people! Giggle and laugh uproariously anyway! This is your life! Laughter is your birthright—this moment’s joy the only guaranteed fulfillment!
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