Let me tell you a story.
Several years back things were not so great- in my life and in my marriage. I wasn’t very happy. Two small children at home was stressing me out. I wasn’t getting time for me; I felt isolated without much social support; and my husband and I weren’t getting much time together.
Everything between us was feeling tense and heavy. Our conversations were typically about finances, the kids, and the never-ending to-do list of the many projects we had going.
Things were so tense that we hit a crisis point-talk of divorce was on the table. In working through our crisis the clarity of what was missing became clear: playfulness and a sense of humor. We weren’t having any fun together! We forgot to enjoy. Moving forward, my husband and I vowed to pay attention to this need for lightheartedness and to create more of it between us.
Easier said than done.
Fast forward a couple years and we were finding it wasn’t so easy to do. There were still the same stressors in our life- finances were still tight- the to-do list changed but was still ever looming; and parenting is just well, not always easy.
That’s when Laughter Yoga came to my life.
Through word of mouth I discovered an international social movement for peace, health and happiness based on this idea that you could “laugh for no reason” meaning you don’t need comedy, jokes or even to be in a good mood to laugh. Who knew!?
It was started in India, in 1995 by a medical doctor who formed a laughter club in the park in which they practiced laughter “exercises” and deep breathing techniques (that’s the YOGA part). The idea spread quickly and now there are over 80,000 laughter clubs in 80 different countries.
I immediately knew I wanted to get trained in this method. After my training I began to go out in my community and lead the technique, trying to get as much practice as I could.
Along the way (it’s two years later now) I laughed. A lot.
Things began to change in my life, in my outlook on things, and… in my marriage.
Here’s what I learned:
#1: Fake it till you make it
In Laughter Yoga, we are taught to fake the laughter even if you don’t “feel like it” --- because the body doesn’t know the difference. The same feel-good hormones are released, your heartbeat still rises, and etc. whether the laughter is faked or it is genuine.
The “fake it till you make it” principle can be applied to a lot of areas in life- especially relationships. This has been a big “a-ha” for me. Because there are certainly times in my marriage when “I don’t feel like it” comes up. Perhaps I don’t feel like going on a date, or making love, or being kind and loving to my partner. Perhaps I don’t feel like smiling all the time. But when I do it anyway- faking it if I have to at first—my body still responds in a positive way. Just like with the laughing. And my husband certainly appreciates being smiled at when he first comes home.
#2: Change Begins Within
Dr. Kataria, the founder of Laughter Yoga, is often quoted as saying, “When you laugh, you change, and when you change the world changes.” I have found this to be completely true. When I began to lead laughter yoga what I was actually practicing was being playful. I had to turn on my enthusiasm to lead others. I had to let my silly side come out. I had to make up laughter exercises on the spot when I couldn’t remember the ones I learned in the training.
And guess what the result has been? I smile more. I laugh more easily than I used to. I engage in playfulness with my husband more often. Did he start doing laughter yoga with me? NO. But my level of playfulness naturally encouraged him to be more playful. You will often see our kids smiling and teasing us about how silly we are together now. Five years ago?? Totally different picture.
#3: It’s the Little Moments that Count- So Make them Positive
My husband works full time and we have a busy life like most people. It’s still a challenge to make time for each other. That hasn’t changed. What changed is when I asked myself, do I want the moments I have with him to be positive or negative?
Because the truth is: every little moment contributes to your whole experience. I had to take responsibility for what I was bringing to our moments. Laughter Yoga has helped me learn a big lesson- that in order to GET what I wanted, I had to GIVE what I wanted. In this case the missing element in my marriage was lightheartedness and playfulness. But just knowing that wasn’t enough. I actually had to BE playful and lighthearted.
What can you do with this information?
Now- I am not saying you need to go out and become a laughter yoga leader or join a laughter club (though I highly recommend the latter) if things are tense with you and your partner. And, I know that being silly and practicing laughter is out of some people comfort’s zones.
If this is you, I encourage you to consider what works for you. I simply want to get you thinking about how you can generate more playfulness and lightheartedness in your marriage.
Just contemplating this may help things to shift for you. And trust me- even a little change in one practice in your life (like laughing more on purpose) can make some big changes in your marriage.
So, what’s your favorite type of play with your spouse? Do you like to wrestle? Dance? Play sports? Tickle? Play games?
If your partner doesn’t seem so willing, you can also ask yourself, "What can I do to actively be more playful in my life?" Get on the phone with a girlfriend who makes you laugh. Watch more funny videos or movies. Wear outrageous clothes. Sing and dance in the shower.
Feeding yourself with what you enjoy, find playful and fun will ultimately translate into you having more energy to give to your marriage and your kids. And you’d be surprised how others around you change when you change.
And, of course, if you desire (or need) more personal support you can always contact me for a “Discovery Session” to see how you can make some shifts from your side of your relationship.
Remember, whatever it is that you desire – whether it’s playfulness, fun, sensual touch, affection or something else – consider how you could GIVE THAT to your partner. The principle here is to give what you would like to get.
So go out there and have some laughs. Have some fun. See what happens. Play!
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