Why the 3 LOLs Exercise Deserves a Spot in Your Self-Care Routine
June 7, 2019
I probably text this three or four times a day—to my brother, my friends, maybe in response to a photo or video or observation. (And always with the extra "OL" at the end, for some reason, making it laughing out loud, out loud. Oh, the things we do!)
But at the end of the day, when I get in bed, it's not the LOLs that replay in my head, but all the day's UGHs and OOFs.
The reason why: Our brains have a "negativity bias," which makes it easier to focus on negative events rather than positive ones. It takes actively redirecting our thoughts to override this tendency.
Enter: What we're calling the 3 LOLs exercise. It's a simple routine to help you actually remember the things that you find funny every day.
Here's how it works:
Think through three of the funniest things you heard, saw, did, or experienced in the past 24 hours.
They can be big or small—maybe a dog struts by on the shortest, cutest legs you've ever seen, or you see a kid laughing hysterically for seemingly no reason whatsoever, which makes you laugh hysterically.
Jot them down when they happen or list them off in your head at the end of the day.
Then, write down or think through why you found it funny.
What's the benefit, you ask?
Well, the more you practice seeing the humor in your day-to-day, the more open you'll be to LOLs and quicker to laugh. And humor is an often overlooked self-care tool.
"Laughter has physical effects on our bodies: It releases dopamine, increases blood flow, and strengthens the heart," according to UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center. "And seeing the humor in a tough situation can even be a healthy way to cope."
Plus: It'll make it easier to switch off that highlight reel of everything that went wrong during the day right before you go to bed (hello, insomnia!), and instead replay everything good that happened.
This is a spin on listing things you are grateful for (though that's an equally great exercise!). Because by remembering all the funny bits of your day, you're allowing yourself to remember them—and relive them—which gives you another little boost of dopamine that helps you get through one day, and the next.
Also, knowing what you find funny will help you seek out these experiences or notice these small moments more often. If a highlight of your Monday was walking behind that adorable dog—and you remembered that he made you laugh—then perhaps on Tuesday you'll keep your eyes peeled for more little pups.
I tried this exercise myself this week, and I'll be honest, at first I drew a blank. All that came to my mind was how cranky and exhausted I felt.
But after literally 60 seconds of thinking about it, I came up with three things for my 3 LOLs:
— That silly cup
When I was eating lunch with friends in the company cafeteria, one of them recognized a former colleague, who came and joined us. The reusable plastic cup he was carrying also joined us, and it said…IT'S TUMMERTIME. That's right, it was promotional merch for Tums. I don't know why, but I thought "tummertime" was the most hilarious word I've ever heard—they thought it was funny, too—and we ended up having a nice and relaxing lunch.
When I remembered this later, I thought: This moment was especially funny because it was out of the ordinary, a break in my routine. I should incorporate new moments like this—and more puns, too.
— That water-heater joke
Later that day, I went to my musical theater writing workshop to watch some 10-minute musicals. One of them was about a young girl who went on adventures with her friend. But there was a big twist—in the end, her friend was revealed to be…a water heater! Everyone's jaws dropped and we all laughed.
This moment felt funny to me because we were totally engrossed in a story—and watching people fully commit to their craft—and then the rug was pulled out from under us in a satisfying way. It reminded me that there's nothing that delights me more than watching stories unfold.
— That one episode
Lastly, I came home and needed to turn off my brain, so I turned on Netflix. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the one show that consistently makes me LOL, and the episode "Sliding Van Doors," absolutely killed me at every turn. There were so many layers and callbacks to every season.
This was an important signal—I don't often let myself simply lounge and watch TV, yet this one hour gave me so much joy and calmed my nerves at the end of a very long day. Perhaps I could schedule these de-stressing moments more often, especially if I know I'm going to have a busy day.
Because there might be a lot of quick fixes for challenging moments, but none of them beat a single, hearty, in-real-life LOL.
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