The Amazing Healing Power of Humor
Everyone enjoys a good laugh…don’t you? Even the most no-nonsense, restrained, sober and conservative person enjoys the feeling of being uplifted and carried away by the sheer delight of laughter. It is one of the most enjoyable of human expressions.
Appreciating humor, being amused and laughing is probably one of the most gratifying experiences we can have. It is also one of the healthiest.
During the past year or more it has become painfully clear to most people that we were all facing some powerful stress. World peace is shaky, the economy is uncertain and the general mood around us is pretty somber.
This is no laughing matter. Where is the humor?
Obviously there are things in everybody’s life that require a certain seriousness to prevail. It is also true, however, that we need to balance seriousness and sobering thought with doses of humor to keep our spirits up and appreciate our lives. Some might even say to keep our sanity!
It may not come as a surprise to you that humor and laughter have benefits. However the benefits are so important and, in these anxiety provoking times, so necessary for good health, that I thought it would be important to learn more about them.
Humor and Its Benefits: The Science
Most people would agree that laughter is good for you in every possible way.
Scientific research on laughter suggests that there are many exceptional benefits to a good sense of humor and a good laugh. The old expression, “laughter is the best medicine”, is not just a cliché, but has real scientific merit.
What happens when we laugh?
Our physiology changes…
Our blood pressure and pulse immediately go up but then come down to a lower level than before. The more often you laugh the more likely your pulse and blood pressure will improve.
Our breathing is improved. Laughter causes us to breathe deeper than before, sending more oxygen into the bloodstream and nutrients throughout our system. Most of us breathe with shallow breaths and need to deepen those breaths frequently to maximize the benefits of oxygenation.
Production of our stress hormones decreases and our immune system is therefore better able to defend against disease.
There is a system wide increase in protein molecules or disease fighting antibodies. Researchers are now studying the positive effect laughter may have on production of these antibodies as they relate to fighting cancer.
People with a good sense of humor who laugh every day are more likely to have healthier hearts. A study by the University of Maryland found that people with heart disease had been 40% less likely to laugh or smile in general. The researchers concluded that laughing is likely to protect the heart.
Laughter helps oxygenate the blood and improve brain functioning. Some studies have shown that after laughing subjects show some improvement in their ability to grasp learning new material, suggesting improvement in the learning centers of the brain.
What are some of the other benefits?
Humor and laughter can help to diffuse anger. Most tense situations can be softened by injecting some humor at the right time.
Humor relieves stress and can help a person develop a better perspective. It is often far better to appreciate the more comical side of things than the serious side.
Humor brings people together and makes for a more relaxed atmosphere. Everyone enjoys being entertained and laughing is very entertaining (and contagious).
Developing a sense of humor can stave off depression by replacing negative feelings with pleasurable emotions.
Humor seems to boost our energy level. When we laugh and have fun we are apt to engage in more activities.
Humor “breaks the ice” and can help people get to know each other more easily. When meeting someone for the first time it is always better to share a laugh than a complaint.
How to develop a sense of humor.
Try becoming friendlier: Everyday make it a goal to engage a stranger (or friend or family member) with a “good morning”, “how are you?” or a “you look great today”. Making small positive connections with others lifts the spirits and creates an atmosphere for humor to develop..
Smile often: Whenever you make eye contact with someone smile at them. It is a small pleasantry that helps to keep morale and spirits high.
Learn to laugh everyday: Listen to your favorite comedian, associate with people who enjoy humor, try to view things from a humorous perspective and simply “lighten up”!
Don’t take yourself too seriously: Notice the silly things you do, notice how vain you are, notice how many things are really not that important and notice whether or not you are a little too uptight for your own good and then begin to poke some fun at yourself.
Try saying something funny: Once you have noticed some of the more comical things in your world, try pointing them out to friends. Consider engaging in more humor laden conversations, even about the economy, politics or any subject you like.
Having a sense of humor is essential for enjoying your life. It will help relieve stress, enhance your relationships and it may even extend your life. If you already have a sense of humor, use it as often as possible. If you don’t, then develop one as soon as possible.
It is only fitting that in a post about humor I include some humor. What follows are some one- liners and puns that are meant to put a smile on your face and leave you laughing! Some have been attributed to certain comedians and others are anonymous.
I was such an ugly kid. When I played in the sandbox the cat kept covering me up.
I saw my doctor last week, I told him, “Doctor, every day I wake up, I look in the mirror, I want to throw up. What’s wrong with me?!” He said, “I don’t know, but your eyesight is perfect.”
I was so ugly when I was born, the doctor slapped my mother.
Sincerity is everything. If you can fake
that, you’ve got it made.
It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t
want to be there when it happens.
If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple of payments.
Smoking cures weight problems, eventually.
If the “black box” flight recorder is never damaged during a plane crash, why isn’t the whole damn airplane made out of it?
Ever notice that anyone going slower than you is an idiot, but anyone going faster than you is a maniac?
I’ve had a wonderful evening – but this wasn’t it.
Men want the same thing from their underwear that they want from women: a little bit of support, and a little bit of freedom.
I know what men want. Men want to be really, really close to someone who will leave them alone.
I think men who have a pierced ear are better prepared for marriage. They’ve experienced pain and bought jewelry.
My husband and I are either going to buy a dog or have a child. We can’t decide whether to ruin our carpet or ruin our lives.
I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.
Why is it when we talk to God we’re said to be praying, but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic?
If God had wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates.
Please, if you ever see me getting beaten up by the police, please put your video camera down and help me.
My husband said he needed more space. So I locked him outside.
I come from family where gravy is considered a beverage.
A man on a date wonders if he’ll get lucky. The woman knows.
Instead of getting married again, I’m going to find a woman I don’t like and give her a house.
Laugh at your problems, everybody else does.
A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.
A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake a whole relationship.
The shinbone is a device for finding furniture in a dark room.
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
A pessimist’s blood type is always b-negative.
About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with people wanting to perform at higher levels to achieve success in both life and work. This includes individuals, couple, and business partners.