Keeping a Laughter Journal Changed My Life—and Here’s How It Can Change Yours

Updated: Apr. 13, 2017

How many times a day do you laugh out loud? Do you even know? I certainly didn't. But keeping a laughter diary helped me know myself better, see my relationship in a new light, and think happier thoughts.


The ‘Laughter Diary’ Rules:

First, I set a few ground rules. If I was going to do this, I had to be strict about it. I bought myself a pink (as in ‘tickled pink’) diary and wrote down the rules as follows:

  • Rule 1: I would carry the diary everywhere with me.

  • Rule 2: Each time I so much as sniggered, I’d jot it down in the book along with what exactly had made me laugh. Big or small, I had to be as thorough as possible here.

  • Rule 3: At the end of the day, I’d add up how many times I’d laughed and write a little summary of what I’d learned. It was crucial that I reflected back on what my laughter had meant for me and how it had affected my overall mood.

  • Rule 4: I would not miss a single day of this ritual for the next 30 days.

It might sound like a simple task, but honestly, it was much harder and more revealing than I imagined. Over the last 30 days, I’ve seen my life in a whole new light and found out a few core truths too. These are just some of the incredible lessons I learned along the way.

I laugh way more than I ever thought.

If you asked me on any given day how many times I laugh, I’d say an ultra low figure. I’d guess that I giggle once or twice per day at the very most. My real average is far, far higher than that. When I started adding up all the little giggles and belly-busting laughs, I found that I was laughing my socks off around six times per day. Six different things on average would amuse me so much that I just could not contain myself. Let’s say my waking day is 18 hours; that’s one thing every three hours. It’s not that I was under the impression that I walked around with a constant frown on my face. But like most people, most adults anyway, I think my life is pretty run-of-the-mill serious. I thought that, at best, I broke into laughter only when something truly hilarious happened. Apparently, I was wrong.

My boyfriend makes me giggle at least once a day.

Here’s an important reference point: My boyfriend and I have been together for five and a half years. The honeymoon stage of our giddy love story is well and truly over. We live together, we argue about the dishes, and we’re both seriously busy people. We have jobs, a cat, and social lives. So, before I reveal the shocking truth (that he still makes me laugh), understand where we are in our relationship. We’re comfortable, perhaps too comfortable at times. When I started taking note of the things that made me giggle, there was one recurring theme. Among the everyday oddities, my boyfriend was always featured heavily on the list. Whether he’d pulled a goofy face, made fun of my strong midwestern accent, or just broke out into a random song in the kitchen, he’d always found a way to get a rise out of me. I knew I was happy, or at least content, with him already. Still the fact that he was the one making me laugh the most surprised me in a way it never should have. (These are the 11 signs you can totally trust your partner.)

I have a silly sense of humor.

I’d like to think that I laugh at highbrow jokes, political satire, and intelligent word play. Sadly, that’s not who I am. I’m the type of woman who cracks up when she hears what sounds like a dirty word on the radio (Day 8); the one who sniggers when she hides her boyfriend’s PS4 controller for a joke (Day 24); and the one who laughs out loud when someone trips in the street (Day 17). Okay, I felt a little bad about that last one, but it happened and I’m sorry to say I laughed the loudest of all. The truth of the matter, whether I like it or not, is that it’s the stupidest things that brighten my mood. The things that I found funny as a teen have followed me well into my 20s, and I will not apologize for that. If anything, it’s a part of who I am and why I bounce off the people around me so very much. I’ll own my silly sense of humor. There are much worse personality traits I could have!

I focus way too much on the negative.

Sometimes, what you really need in order to realize how happy you actually are, is to reframe your existence. We all view ourselves through our own unique lens—and I’ll admit that mine is anything but rose-tinted. For no specific reason, I tend to see almost everything in a negative light. A real pessimist at the core. If the laughter diary showed me just one thing, it’s this: I need to snap out of that negative mindset. Focusing on what made me happy each day meant that I simply did not have time to focus on the things that made me sad. And, you know what? I was happier as a result of it. My mood over the last couple of weeks, especially, has been nothing short of sunny. Since I’ve begun to notice the small things, my melodramatic problems seem less important—unimportant, even. Find out what optimistic people do every day.

I realized I had many things to be thankful for.

You know when you go around the table at Thanksgiving and say what you’re thankful for? Well, I always go for the generic stuff: I’m thankful for my loving family, my boyfriend, the delicious home-cooked food on the table, etc. While all of the above is true, I pick the obvious choices for one sad reason—I don’t appreciate things enough. Glancing over my laughter diary, there are many wonderful things in my life that I’m blind to on a day-to-day basis. The fact that the postman knows me by name and jokes about the terrible weather; the way my cat gets excited and runs around the room, skidding on the hardwood floor when I come home; even the dumb jokes on sitcoms I watch to relax. All of the above contribute to my overall contentedness. It’s time to pay more mind to the things that give me that little boost each day. The truth is that being happy takes practice. It’s not something that merely happens to you; it’s something you have to work on every single day. Recognizing the things that bring you a little bit of joy isn’t going to change your life, but it might just lighten it a tad. And, sometimes, that’s all you really need.

MORE: How a Bullet Journal Can Change Your Mental Health