Life can get intensely serious at times. There’s that urgent project at work. What about that problem in your relationship? Then there’s the family issue that’s adding a lot of pressure to your life.
At the same time, taking things too seriously can become a source of crippling stress.
That’s why gurus and spiritual leaders around the world admonish seriousness and remind people to laugh, play, and enjoy life.
So how do you make that change and stop taking things so seriously?
One place to start is to look at the habits of people who are already doing this and emulate them. So here’s a list of the eight habits of people who don’t take life too seriously to help you learn to lighten your load.
1) They keep things in perspective.
In college, I had a wacky professor who was always in a great mood, no matter what was going on with his workload or his tenure.
I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the poster on the door to his office.
It was a beautiful image of a spiral galaxy glittering with stars and a little arrow pointing at basically nothing between the thick covering of tiny white dots. And that arrow was labeled “Earth.”
It was meant to strike you as amazing how truly insignificant our world is in the cosmic scheme of things. And then being just one person on the whole entire earth, well…
Likewise, people who don’t take life too seriously know that their problems and struggles, no matter how large they might seem at times, are truly insignificant when compared to the majesty of the universe.
I find this humbling and also freeing because it helps get you out from the perspective you might be stuck in and be able to see things from a whole new perspective.
2) They practice gratitude.
Feeling thankful and appreciative can be hard, especially in the most dark and dire situations.
But that’s exactly why people who don’t take life too seriously cultivate these feelings when they can.
According to research, practicing gratitude seems to have real positive benefits in our lives. Not only does it improve mood, but it also increases self-care and exercise while improving overall health.
Is that why people who don’t take life to seriously do it?
While they likely soak up all these benefits, they’re probably practicing gratitude because they know life can be hard, but if you focus only on problems, you get bogged down by negativity.
And then life’s just not a whole lot of fun, is it?
3) They give others the benefit of the doubt.
People who enjoy life and don’t take it so seriously don’t go out into the world with a perspective of negativity and suspicion.
While they might be ready for the possibility, they don’t expect that everyone they meet will try to swindle, lie to, or otherwise harm them.
And when they do come across clues to possible harmful and negative behavior, they give people the benefit of the doubt. They stay open-minded to the possibility that their understanding of the situation or their assessment of the person’s intentions could be wrong.
Imagine you’re invited to a little get-together after work with some of your colleagues. Then when you get there, they start making little digs at you, maybe about your appearance, habits, or your work.
Most of us, myself included, would probably think, “Hang on, did they invite me out just to publicly criticize and humiliate me?”
But perhaps we’re misinterpreting things.
Someone taking the situation less seriously might stay calm and look at other possibilities. Perhaps this is just friendly teasing which people often do when they want to bond. Or maybe they feel insecure. Either way, it might be a time not to get offended but perhaps to offer friendship or reassurance.
4) They look for the bright side.
People who don’t take life too seriously prioritize positivity.
We all know the old adage that every cloud has a silver lining and Monty Python’s cheeky “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” philosophy.
But how many of us actually put this into practice?
When we encounter truly awful situations like serious illness or the loss of a loved one, we get entirely overwhelmed by negativity.
And, of course, these are negative situations. But we can also recognize that they’re just situations, parts of life, and not the whole thing.
Looking for positivity doesn’t mean simply ignoring negativity or pretending it’s something else.
But it does mean looking beyond negativity to see what else is going on that could be positive.
This helps people keep a more even keel and not fall too far into negativity and depression.
5) They don’t get hurt easily.
People who don’t take life too seriously don’t take themselves too seriously.
And that’s the main reason why they don’t fall prey to an over-inflated sense of self-worth or self-pitying behavior as well.
And these are the things that can compound emotional pain and make it that much worse.
This doesn’t mean that these people don’t get hurt. It just means that they don’t sweat the small stuff.
They don’t get pulled into overreacting to small things because their egos can take some hit before any damage is actually done.
Of course, they’re going to be upset about a break-up, or if they find out they’ve been lied to by someone close to them.
But they’re not going to get hurt by simple gossip or minor affronts.
They just don’t take these things so seriously.
And because they don’t, they’re able to take criticism quite well, too. They don’t feel offended by it but instead welcome the opportunity to turn criticism into an opportunity to improve.
6) They laugh.
This one seems obvious, doesn’t it?
Serious people don’t laugh, and non-serious people do, even in the face of chaos.
Is that all there is to it?
Mahatma Gandhi had this to say about laughter:
By this quote, he meant that real laughter was a free expression of a person’s true feelings, whether those are hilarity or happiness.
Being able to laugh when it’s appropriate shows that someone is really in touch with their feelings and able to express happiness and even joy.
But people who are taking life too seriously are held back from this joyous free expression. They let their internal seriousness override a fun or funny situation, and the result is that they don’t laugh when they could and especially not when they should.
7) They play.
A quote I love that may or may not be from Albert Einstein is this:
“Play is the highest form of research”
Whether or not he said it in these words; Einstein recognized the importance of playing with ideas as “the essential feature of productive thought”.
Creative and playful thinking is only possible when you don’t give yourself rigid rules on what you’re allowed to consider and how you can solve problems.
And this comes from not taking the world too seriously.
But it’s more than just playing with ideas.
These people actually play, both mentally and physically, in a way that can make them seem youthful and exuberant.
These are the people on the subway playing peek-a-boo with a stranger’s kid.
They’re the people who wear silly costumes for Halloween and have wicked and wild dance moves at their cousin’s wedding.
Because they don’t mind making themselves look a little silly. They don’t take themselves too seriously and don’t expect others to, either.
That lets them have the freedom to let loose and have fun.
8) They know when to be serious.
Lest you think it’s all silliness and messing around, there’s something important also to understand.
Sure, these people can laugh and play and express joy, but by not taking life too seriously, they actually gain emotional maturity because they’re able to work through their issues and learn from others objectively.
And that helps them know when it’s essential to be serious.
It’s simply not always appropriate to be light-hearted and fun, like at a funeral or during a serious relationship talk. And this is one great way to tell if someone is not taking life too seriously, in a good way, or is perhaps just juvenile and immature.
How can you begin to take life less seriously?
One great step is to look at these eight habits and learn to adopt at least some of them.
It’s also essential to take time to reduce stress. That might mean you find chances to relax or practice meditation because stress can make things even more serious and create an even more-serious outlook.
With less stress, you can start to re-assess your problems and see them from a more rational perspective.
Ultimately, learning not to take life too seriously can be a huge boost to your maturation and happiness.