What you will need for this lesson:
- A notebook for taking notes and applying this skill in your own life.
We all know that laughter is good medicine, but why? What does it do? Remember our lesson on the Pleasure Circuitry Opposing pain? It activates BOTH the endogenous opioid AND the dopamine reward system - so really it feels good. And you top this all off with the positive health benefits from deactivating the stress response. So let's take a look at a method to increase laughter in your life.
Laughter is usually spontaneous, and unfortunately does not happen as often as we'd like. Planning to build opportunities for laughter into your life can increase the regularity that you have a wonderful hearty laugh. Let's make a plan! A plan to laugh, laugh everyday! Where do you find things that make you laugh? Write down your ideas in the form below to help you keep track of where you look for laughter every day of the week.
In your notebook list the 7 days of the week.
Then for each day of the week identify different sources of laughter producing activities you can engage in. Do you have a funny show you watch on Tuesdays? A hilarious friend you can call? A funny comedian you can watch online? Take the time to plan where you will find laughter.
Engaging joy should be such a joy! But it doesn't seem as easy when we have pain, because, frankly everything can seem harder. Just like the prior lessons, Finding Joy, is about taking the time to understand where to look first then brain-storming ways to incorporate it into life.
Applying the concepts:
In your notebook use the folowing prompts to explore ways of seeking Joy through the 12 sources of Happiness identified by Dr. Lyubormirsky
- Count Your Blessings: What are you grateful for? What do you take for granted that is really a blessing?
- Cultivate Optimism: Can you imagine a happier tomorrow? What would a more optimistic friend see as a positive in life right now? How can you take that perspective?
- Avoid Over-thinking and Social Comparison: How do you over-think or engage in social comparison? Is this something you can change? How can you increase your awareness of when you are doing this and practice acceptance in the moment?
- Practicing Acts of Kindness: What are some ways to increase acts of kindness every day?
- Nurturing Relationships: How can you give more attention to your relationships? Do you have a relationship in need of some TLC? How can you engage that relationship more?
- Doing More Activities that Truly Engage You: What really engages you? How can you do more of it? Does pain stop you? Can you find a way to do that activity in a new creative way?
- Replaying and Savoring Life's Joys: Dark memories, regrets, old hurts and embarassing moments are some of the brain's favorite neural pathways. But we do have a choice! Practice re-remembering positive, happy, joyful, silly, loving moments. What are some of your most cherished memories?
- Committing to Goals: What is one or two things you want to accomplish? Are these long term or short term goals? How will you know if you are making progress? How you can commit to doing something towards these goals every day?
- Improving Coping Strategies: What causes you the most stress? What taxes your abilities to cope? Where can you find more resources to build your coping and reduce the drain? Do you have friendships, books, online support, a therapist? What has helped in the past? How can you access these resources? What do you need to practice and when will you start practicing these again?
- Learning to Forgive: Learning to let go of anger and resentment is good for your health! But this does not mean re-engaging toxic or abusive relationships. What can you forgive? How can you let go?
- Practicing Religion and/or Spirituality: If you have an identified religion or spirituality how can you engage in your relationship with your god or spirituality more? Do you have a community? Practices? Prayers? Readings? What helps you feel more connected? Can something build your sense of Awe and amazement? These two feelings have been shown to improve immune functioning!
- Taking care of your body: What can you do to take care of your body? Practicing the Mastering Pain Skills is one way! What about nutrition? Hydration? Movement? Rest? What do you need?
Periodically review how you address these 12 concepts, review how you are practicing Joy rather than allowing pain to take over. Pain can naturally sneak in and steal your vitality, worsen your mood, and rob you of feeling connected to the world. How can you fight back?
All pain is real and is biological. All thoughts are biological as well. In fact, our thoughts are so biological that they can directly affect the chemistry throughout our body. Watch this video to learn more about Inflammatory Thoughts.
Anytime we introduce this topic there is a slight hesitation because of the fear of perpetuating the idea that the pain is "all in our head." Or worse that "if you just change the way you think it will be better." We don't believe that. Yet, we firmly believe in sharing all of the science in pain mastery and the fact that the biology of thinking in certain ways can cause inflammation is a fact we wanted to share. Better yet, it gives us one more strategy to reverse the active inflammatory processes caused by pain and reduce one more cause of worsening pain.
We all know changing our thoughts can be very difficult. After all, you are actively trying to create a new pathway in your brain. Just like the intense work of creating a new path in the forest, the hard work is all in the beginning. Once you get the path cleared, you just need to keep going down that new path to keep it active and clear.
IDENTIFYING INFLAMMATORY THOUGHTS
- Borrowing Trouble: What are some ways you borrow trouble by worrying about the future or reviewing the past?
- Wishful Thinking or Shoulds: How do you engage in wishful thinking or should statements? What do you spend mental energy on "wishing" things were different or saying it "shouldn't" be this way?
- Black/White Thinking or Overgeneralizations: How does your brain engage in extremes of thinking? Are things "always" one way or "never" another way?
- Negative Lens and Dismissing Positives: When do you find your brain only focusing on the negative aspects, ignoring or dismissing the positive aspects?
DEVELOP ANTI-INFLAMMATORY THINKING
- Present-Focused: Challenge catastrophizing, worries, or dwelling in the past with questions like, "Where am I NOW? What is happening NOW? What can I do NOW?"
- Test a Thought with Reality: Practice asking yourself "Is there only a negative side to this? Is that reality? Do things ALWAYS happen one way? Are there exceptions?" Examine the acts of the moment and acknowledge them as they are.
- Is it Worth It?: Simply ask yourself, "Is it worth it to me to think this way? Worry about this right now? Dwell on that memory?"
- Observation of Thoughts: Notice that your thoughts come and go. That we don't have to fully engage them, but can actually defuse from them and watch them arise and fade.
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