One evening several years ago, I was home with my children. My husband was at a fancy work dinner, and I made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for me and the kids. My son was upset over something and wasn't following my directions. I asked him to change his behavior a few times, but the situation escalated. Suddenly his soup bowl went flying and red tomato soup went everywhere, including up to the ceiling.
Time stopped for a minute. My son's eyes got wide, and I knew he was wondering how I would react. I think I surprised everyone, including myself, by laughing. Then I began cleaning up the mess. There are some benefits to laughing instead of getting angry when life gets tough. Here are three reasons to laugh, and three reasons to keep cool instead of getting angry.
Laughing reduces stress
When you laugh, you can literally lower levels of certain stress hormones. In addition, laughter helps you bond and connect with others and sends your body the signal that everything is OK. Not every problem in life can be solved with laughter, but finding a bit of humor in ironic or unbelievable situations will help you get through the difficulty.
Staying calm shows maturity
I know I'm not the only parent who's yelled at her children to stop yelling. Staying calm when things go wrong means you're mature enough to deal with frustrating situations and work through them. In situations with adults, staying calm shows you are a grown up.
Laughing diffuses tension
When the soup hit the ceiling at my house, my laughter diffused all of the tension in the air. My son realized he wasn't going to spend the rest of his childhood in his room, and I realized that it was just soup. If you can learn to laugh, you’ll make everyone feel at ease. Then you can work together to clean up the mess or solve the problem.
Staying calm keeps emotions at bay
Sometimes when I get upset, I overreact or say things I regret later. I’ve had to apologize for my in-the-moment reactions and backtrack to make things right. If you stay calm when frustrating things happen, you can keep angry emotions away and save yourself from saying things you wish you hadn’t.
Laughing changes your mood immediately
It’s hard to be mad if you are laughing. Forcing yourself to see the humor or ridiculousness of a situation will cause your mood to change. Every situation looks better when your mood is positive.
Once my daughter found and ate several of my expensive dark chocolate truffles. I wanted to shed a few tears, but I stayed calm, cleaned her up and talked to her about it. She was too young at the time to really discipline, but I wanted my other children to know I could get over a disappointment. I also wanted to show them that I could be forgiving of mistakes, and so could they.
The next time the soup hits the ceiling at your house, or the equivalent, stop for a minute and consider your reaction. Make a choice to laugh or stay calm. Your family will be impressed, and you’ll be happier.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.