Wellness for Law Enforcement

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Laugh Challenge

I teach a police stress class. It's really easy to talk about all the ways police work destroys our health and happiness. That's the easy part. The more challenging aspect of the class is getting cops to practice the things that will make us healthier bipeds. More comfortable in our skin. Better partners, parents and friends. Case in point: laughter.


Laughter acts just like medicine. It changes the way our body works at the physiologic level. Think about how you feel after a really good laugh. You feel great, right? Your muscles are more relaxed, you've stimulated blood flow and just plain feel better.


It's no accident that cops laugh so much. We collect a lot of tension at work and naturally, albeit unconsciously look for things to laugh at. Co-workers, their recounting of a street contact or call they responded to, are usually a good source of laughter. "So, I roll up get out of my car and this guy runs up to me and [insert bizarre, goofy or stupid action here]." We also laugh AT our co-workers too, don't we? The point is, we intuitively know laughing is good for us so we do it a lot.


But "fake" laughter gives us the exact same benefits as real laughter. Enter the Laugh Challenge. 


THE LAUGH CHALLENGE: 
You're sitting at the dinner table with your family (or friends). Pick a random time when everyone's there, and start laughing. Don't wait for something funny, create something funny by fake laughing. And, yeah, it'll feel really fake and silly and a voice in your head will bellow, "This is STUPID, stop it!" If you head that voice you will fail the challenge. Keep on with the fake laughter. A lot of people can't get past their "comfort zone" here, but not you. You're going to push on and keep laughing. 


If you've made it this far you'll see the good stuff. Okay, so you're laughing like a complete moron and your family is looking at you like you've finally fallen off the deep end. Right about here your real laugh will probably kick in. MAJOR PRINCIPLE OF LAUGH THERAPY: fake laughing produces real laughing. Your kids, wife, friends or whoever is around you will start laughing for real. Now, you're laughing for real, they're laughing for real and tears will start coming down your face. 


When I've done this in the past, I find it becomes one of those truly crazy laugh episodes. The ones you where you can't STOP laughing. After the dust settles and people are wiping the tears from their eyes you can tell them about the challenge. 


You've given yourself and everyone around you the gift of a good belly laugh. Let me know how it works out. 


For more on this see,


http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5165226

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