You can’t think your way out of a problem when you’re stuck in the ‘problem’ mindset. If you want to shed some light on an issue, you need to be in a different emotional space. Then, you can examine it objectively, explore new ideas and gain new insights.
Laughter will change your state!
During a recent training, one of the participants was telling us about a weird, negative routine she frequently ran in her head when she got into bed. While she’d never experienced such an event in real life, she described her imagined frightening scenario in incredibly vivid detail. She took us through her whole nightly procedure in an extremely dramatic and amusing way. She wanted to stop doing it, she said, but it had become a scary habit.
The rest of us were shocked
We couldn’t understand why anyone would want to visualise such an horrifying situation — especially while in bed and just before going to sleep! However, as she continued with her hilarious blow-by-blow enactment of her ritual visualisation, we all, including the raconteuse, began laughing.
The laughter became louder and more intense as she continued.
After 10 minutes explaining a few variations of the scenario, some of us were struggling to breathe. Our bellies ached because we were laughing so hard — the story-teller included. I have to admit to doing some things to prolong the laughter.
Because I know that you can’t belly-laugh about a problem and still have the problem.
You can’t have two contrary states running at the same time. In this case, the belly-aching-laughter state cancelled out her ability to run the negative visualisation.
Sure enough, the participant told us she’d been unable to visualise her horror movie for the remainder of the week.
If you’ve been a subscriber to my newsletter for any length of time, you’ll know that I love to laugh and I love to share humour with you. I can laugh at just about anything and sometimes, just remembering something funny will send me into hysterics. It might be some funnies from the Happiness and Humour section, a clip on YouTube, a short video on Facebook, a personal experience, watching standup comics on TV, reading something funny or even playing with my dog or parrot; all form grist for the laughter mill.
Why laughter is important
I used to rent a room in a doctors surgery for my coaching work. The doctors, nurses and admin staff would often threaten to book themselves in for a session with me. They wanted to figure out why there was so much hilarity behind my closed door. And at other times, in an almost reprimanding tone, someone would ask, “I thought what you were doing was supposed to be serious?”
Of course, what I do is serious.
But that doesn’t mean I have to be serious. Taking things too seriously is often a client’s biggest problem, preventing them from resolving their issue. If I can help someone laugh at an aspect of their problem, it puts them in a better state. A good state makes it easier to look at things from different perspectives and to see solutions.
Research confirms it!
Research confirms that laughter is good for mental health and can break cycles of psychological negativity. Being in a good mood can indeed help you be both better and quicker at solving problems. Also, it shows that a positive mood leads to more insightful moments.
It’s my responsibility to be in a good mood
I can’t expect my clients to lighten up if I can’t show them how. I can access upbeat states quite easily now — I’ve had plenty of practice! But at first, I would often just think about something funny that had happened, such as the story at the start of this post.
When I’m in these buoyant states, I often achieve a flow state where I gain cognisance of innovative ways to coach a client, or to solve a problem. And these insights often surprise and delight me.
If you’d like to use this technique for yourself, it might pay to have a look at this article about ‘anchoring‘ first. Then come back here.
How to use laughter to resolve a problem
Think about an issue that you’ve been trying to solve. Write it down as concisely as you can.
Then put it aside.
Reminisce about some humorous experiences from your own life or search for funny items online. (My Happiness and Humour Section on the Blog, YouTube, joke sites etc. These are all excellent places to look for resources. You might want to bookmark a few for future reference.) Make sure they are funny enough to make you laugh out loud. You must experience a change of state — rather than intellectually ‘thinking’ they’re funny.
Now, staying in your more uplifted state, look at the problem as you’ve written it down. What new insights spring to mind for resolving it? If nothing immediately springs to mind, leave the issue a bit longer if at all possible. Do something else, but maintain that positive frame of mind.
Look at the problem again later or continue with the other tasks and see if a solution problem doesn’t just pop into your head!
The key is to maintain a lighter and more positive mood
Practice until you can create a positive state that works for you. Keeping an excellent emotional state is like many things; the more you practice, the better you get at it. So practice, then ‘anchor’ the happy state for future use. After all, being in high spirits is an end in itself — and you never know when there will be a problem to solve.
What to remember about problem states
- It’s challenging to solve a problem when you’re still in the ‘problem state’.
- It’s better to put the problem to one side and find a way to improve your emotional state.
- Anchor a positive, upbeat state for future use.
- When you’re feeling more cheerful, examine the problem again.
- Practice controlling your mood so you can obtain problem solving/flow states more easily.