Why You Should Laugh At Yourself More Often

Laughing at yourself is a spiritual practice: one requiring presence, self-acceptance and total humility.

“There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do.” –Amy Poehler

What if we could relive the most embarrassing moment of our lives? Turn back time and find a way to laugh our way through it, instead of cowering in utter humiliation, red-faced and flushed with the horror and embarrassment of having done—what felt like at the time—the stupidest thing in the world.

No matter what the situation may be, it’s all about perspective—it’s changing your attitude when you seemingly lose control of your situation. Laughter is the first step toward making this spiritual shift. We can laugh when we do something our ego defines as “stupid,” and with enough practice, we can laugh even when we’re so upset we could cry.

When we laugh at ourselves we’re practicing radical self-love in its purest, most primal form.

Some people take themselves very seriously, and as they move toward their goals, ambitions, and all the things they think they “should” be doing, a micromanaging mindset takes hold. They use “I’m crazy busy” to convince themselves and others they do not have time to waste on light-hearted affairs. When one little thing diverts them from their perfect path, suddenly a molehill becomes a mountain and the sky is falling.

Indeed, a small study published in 2011 by the University of California Berkeley and the University of Zurich, found that the ability to laugh at oneself is not a trait everyone actively possesses. The subjects who readily laughed at themselves had a more upbeat personality in general, and a better sense of humor. More interesting still, is the link between hilarity and humility discovered in these findings.

Okay, so don’t sweat the small stuff, but what if, say, we (or a loved one) were diagnosed with a life threatening condition or disease? An article in the Wanderlust Journal titled, The Science of Laughter, explores the psychological benefits of laughter on cancer patients. Katherine Puckett, PhD, chief of the Division of Mind-Body Medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) said, “As you know cancer is not a laughing matter. But laughter does allow patients—anybody, really—to find relief from the stress and the pain and the discomfort of cancer and cancer treatment. It allows people to remember they can still enjoy life. That’s one of the most important things.”

Temperament and treatment aside, laughter is also scientifically proven to be good for your day-to-day physical health. A 2005 study found that laughter helps facilitate the dilation of blood vessels, improving their overall function and stimulating the cardiovascular system. Fresh oxygen surges into the bloodstream with each inhale and exhale of a good hearty giggle. Much like yogic breathing, the heart, brain and lungs become enriched as new air is drawn in and stale prana (energy) exits the body. 

Yoga can be seen as a very serious practice. And there’s nothing funny about taking a deep dive into self-study, as the things we discover about ourselves are not always easy to look at. But lest we forget, our practice can also be lighthearted and freeing—even when we fall out of a handstand. If your practice has ever felt a bit flat or lifeless, perhaps you too, are in need of a big Buddha belly laugh. Laughter yoga, for instance, is a jovial practice, incorporating pranayama and movement with laughter exercises proven (by science!) to enhance well-being.

Laughing at yourself—and doing it often—is a means of taking back your power.

When we allow fear, despair or humiliation to take over, we feel out of control. When we are incapable of laughing at ourselves we become self-conscious—we doubt our abilities and forget there is a natural, divine order to things. But when we can laugh at our own limitations, we are reminded of what it means to be human—that life is indeed a beautiful and funny thing.