Why Being Silly Can Reduce Your Stress Levels
It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?
The very idea that you could feel like that:
When every part of your life feels like this:
Here you are, stressed to the eyeballs, trying to deal with the million and one things that need your attention, and I'm suggesting that being silly will somehow magically make everything OK.
Before you click off the page, just hang on and read a bit more, what I'm saying will make sense.
The thing is, the human brain is really good at locking itself into a particular mindset.
So, once we've been stressed for a while, and let's face it, that's the state most adults are in these days, the brain will find it very difficult to be anything other than stressed. Especially when whatever in our world that's causing the stress isn't going to go away anytime soon.
The brain is also a master at filtering. It has to be that way otherwise it would take in so much data that our minds would probably implode. So, it has to filter to keep us functioning. But, when the brain filters, it does so in relation to whatever it's focused on. So, when we're stressed the filtering ensures that anything in our lives that is not directly related to the stress gets sifted out.
Let's think about stress for a moment; it doesn't matter what's causing the stress, it still leaves us on the hamster wheel of anxiety and 'what if', and finding ourselves unable to stop worrying about whatever the stress is. Our mind can't leave it alone so we're constantly thinking about it. Most of us also have that Inner Critical Voice which adds to the noise by telling us we're failing, not good enough blah, blah. It makes us feel even worse and becomes another layer of stress in itself. It leaves us feeling irritable, jumpy, unable to relax, can't sleep, can't think and worrying how on earth we can possibly find the energy to get up to face another day like this.
We're stuck on the hamster wheel and we can't get off.
Where does being silly fit in with all this?
It's surprisingly simple.
Being silly guarantees that for the time you're being silly, your brain will unlock and allow you to be in a completely different mindset.
Being silly enables the brain to reconnect with emotions that are critical for coping with stress, with emotions that promote emotional resilience, but which, ironically, have been disconnected precisely because we are stressed.
When the brain gets stuck in a stressed mindset, in order to keep going with that, it has to filter and disconnect from emotions that don't fit into a stressed state of being. We start to notice that we're not happy with life, things that we used to not even notice have somehow become things that we struggle to cope with now, everything is yet another chore on a never-ending to-do list. We might laugh at a joke but the whole 'joy in life' thing, that feel-good buzz and 'all is well in my world' are gone from our lives.
Being silly helps us connect to these shutdown feelings - feeling happy, feeling calm, feeling connected to our world and the people in it, feeling that we are enough, feeling loved and valued for who we are, feeling that joy in life vibe.
If you want to see a human who is absolutely connected to their joyful emotions, all you have to do is look at a small child. Doesn't every adult smile when they see a child who is just joyously running and playing, totally uninhibited and without a care in the world? Don't we secretly envy that child even as we smile?
Now is the time to take it back for our adult selves.
Being silly for adults is not about ridiculing or humiliating ourselves, it's about doing anything silly and fun that allows us to reconnect to those same feelings we knew as a child.
Put your wellies on and go and jump in puddles.
Have a pillow fight with your partner.
Draw the living room curtains and do some crazy dancing - no one will ever know.
Run up and down the hallway pretending to be an airplane.
Go to the park and feed the ducks.
Go to the swimming pool and jump off the highboard.
Go to the beach and build a sand castle that's 6 feet high.
Get a bubble-blowing kit and see who can blow the biggest bubble.
Go on that theme park ride, don't stand there holding the coats.
You get the drift, right?
It doesn't matter what you choose to do, it can be anything that feels to you like it would be silly, fun and child-like to do.
Notice how you start to feel different when you try being silly. It can feel really awkward to begin with, many adults are not very good at playing, being spontaneous and being creative. We've lost the knack of it but the more you persevere, the easier it gets.
Notice how you start to relax, start to laugh and suddenly the burden we're carrying feels lighter, feels like we can handle it after all.
But, we're adults and so, all too soon, we have to pick up our grown-up lives and responsibilities and soldier on. But the memory of having fun stays, it keeps the burden feeling lighter. We start to notice that little things are not bothering us so much anymore, they even stop being 'things'. Then the big things start to become less bothersome too.
Being silly is not about never being stressed, not about using silliness to deny or distract from stress, it's about creating resilience so we cope better when our lives are stressful.
Being silly and having child-like fun are tremendously powerful tools for any adult to use to combat stress.
And when your head tries to tell you that being silly is not allowed for grown-ups, listen to your heart.