Dr. B is a naturopathic doctor in Ontario, Canada. He is the author of "Rules of Health," a comprehensive guide on healthy living.
Why Is Humor so Important in Our Lives?
What happens when we see someone laugh? We spontaneously smile and maybe even start to laugh. This effect is even more profound when many people are laughing. This happens because laughter is truly contagious.
Research shows that humans respond to positive emotions such as laughter by priming their face muscles to smile and mimic the emotions of the social group they are interacting with. There may be an evolutionary advantage to finding humor in our lives and in fact, there are many health benefits associated with laughter and being able to find the humor in stressful everyday situations.
Humor seems to be a powerful antidote to stress and pain. Almost nothing seems to work so well in bringing your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your mental burdens, inspires you and keeps you grounded. With so much power to heal and renew, our ability to find the humor in different situations is an incredible resource for finding happiness.
The positive, optimistic outlook that humor can provide allows us to get through life’s struggles in a more endearing way. Humor also helps create a psychological distance between you and your problem and in doing so allows a shift in perspective, creating a more realistic worldview.
Just taking a look at the physical and mental benefits of laughter is enough to get us on board the humor train. One of the biggest benefits to laughter is improved cardiovascular function. Laughter dilates the blood vessels bringing increased blood flow which can help protect you against heart attacks.
Plus, laughter exercises the lungs bringing in more oxygen for the cells to use. With the increased blood flow and higher blood concentrations of oxygen, our metabolism increases and we burn more calories. I got your attention now, didn’t I? Furthermore, laughter relaxes our muscles and increases our pain threshold as well, so there is less of a need for popping those pain killers.
Another fantastic thing happens when the cascade of humor flows through us, our stress hormones fall and feel good endorphins rise making us happier. Our immune system loves low levels of the stress hormone cortisol which makes it work more efficiently hence we fall sick less often. The positive feeling that smiling or laughing can bring stays with us long past the laughter subsides. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Taking a look at all these benefits, laughter truly is the best medicine and best of all it’s free.
I would like to make a very important distinction when it comes to humor. Some depressed individuals may use humor as a mask to hide their pain and deflect their feelings by placing the focus on specific external circumstances. Such people may not be addressing the underlying cause of their unhappiness and in doing so fall even deeper into depression. Although laughter and a sense of humor are very beneficial in dealing with tough situations it may not be enough for very depressed individuals. In such cases, professional help may be needed.
Humor is also a wonderful social lubricant. Sharing a laugh with the people in your life is an effective tool for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. Emotional sharing builds strong and lasting bonds. Humour is also a powerful way to heal resentments and hurts. Laughter unites people during difficult times and brings joy and harmony. When we use humor with co-workers, family members, and friends it seems to increase our value in their eyes as well.
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When it comes to one's love life, incorporating more humor and play into your daily interactions can improve the quality of your bond. Using humor and laughter in relationships brings forth spontaneity, lowers your inhibitions and allows you to be yourself. This can take the relationship to a whole new level of intimacy and trust which will undoubtedly increase happiness.
Ask Yourself Three Questions
During tough situations, you can ask yourself these three questions to put things in perspective.
- In the grand scheme of things is this situation really worth getting upset over?
- Is it really that important for me?
- Can it be fixed?
If the answer is no to all of the above then it may not be something you should worry about. Let it go.
Top 5 Ways of Using Humor to Achieve Happiness
Now that we see how amazing humor can be at creating happiness in our lives, let us see the ways in which we can find the funny in our lives.
- Smile more. Studies have shown that the act of smiling releases endorphins and serotonin which make us happy regardless of whether the situation we are in is humorous or not. The saying fake it till you make it applies here. Ideally, we would like to smile and laugh when life throws us moments that are humorous but you and I both know life is not predictable. So when faced with stressful situations fake a smile. If you can’t fake a smile stick a pencil or pen lengthwise between your teeth for about 30 seconds which will automatically force you to smile. This action itself will help diffuse your stress temporarily to give you enough time to find your bearings.
- See the positive, instead of the negative. We all experience tragic moments in life such as a death of a loved one and this is no laughing matter but aside from such rare instances most of our lives are filled with boring mundane daily events. Learn to see the good in life, especially in moments which makes you feel down. If you experienced a bad situation think about the possible positive outcomes from that situation. Maybe the situation actually helped you get closer to something you really want. Look at the big picture. When we look at the bigger picture, most of the things that upset us are really not worth getting upset over. You can even experiment with your perception of a situation and notice that everything is relative to how you perceive it. Imagine you are observing the bad situation as an outsider. For example, play the role of a child. How would a child perceive the situation? Next, play the role of an alien from another planet or a person of the opposite gender. Now go back into your own consciousness and see the problem from your own perspective. What has changed? You will realize that there is no good or bad in most situations only our perception of that situation.
- Laugh at yourself. If we can’t laugh at our own shortcomings then how can we expect to empathize with other people and their problems? For the majority of the population life is difficult and sometimes life can be unfair too, but if we live life thinking everything bad is always happening to us that will suck the joy out of living. We are on this planet for a very short time. Life is meant to be lived with love, laughter and happiness so do exactly that. Make humor a priority. Surround yourself with things which will make you smile. For example, hang funny posters where you work, read jokes, watch comedies or do anything that you enjoy, which will put a smile on your face and appreciate how precious life can be.
- Move towards humor. If you want to be happy surround yourself with positive people. Like energy attracts like energy. If you surround yourself with negative people you will most certainly see the bad in every situation. By putting yourself in a positive mood you will automatically attract like-minded individuals who will reinforce your positive thinking and ideology. Encourage laughter with your friends and co-workers. Ask them about funny things that happened to them. Go out to comedy shows with a bunch of friends and laugh and later relive those funny moments in the coming days and laugh some more. Join a laughter Yoga club where you will laugh voluntarily and go through different laughing games and fun exercises.
- Lastly humor is just like a muscle. The more you use it the stronger it will get and the better you will get at it. So keep practicing finding the funny in everything and soon you will see more happiness flow into your life and the sense of calm and harmony that comes along with it.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Behzad Azargoshasb
Lorna Lamon on February 01, 2019:
Really enjoyed this article highlighting the fact that humor really is the best form of medicine. Thank you for sharing.