How Humor Can Help You Cope
Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash
Written by: Sabrina Sourjah
Date Updated: 7/14/2021
Reviewed by: Patrick D. Randolph, Ph.D.
Have you ever had a teacher who made the class laugh? I bet you still remember some of those lessons because the study material was mixed with humor.
Humor can lighten up even the darkest of times, making one view life a little more favorably. Tensions can disappear with one joke, and most of us tend to feel better after laughing out loud.
No wonder most of us want to curl up on the couch and watch re-runs of Friends or Seinfeld after a long day at work.
In addition, those with humor tend to be more memorable. In dating, researchers have found that humorous partners are regarded as more attractive. This relationship was stronger for heterosexual men rated by heterosexual women.
If you could choose one characteristic that would get you through life, choose a sense of humor.
~ Jennifer Jones
Definition of Humor in Psychology
The American Psychological Association defines humor as “the capacity to perceive or express the amusing aspects of a situation.”
When you perceive amusing aspects of a situation, you may see it from a different perspective. When you share the amusing aspect with others, you’re spreading the benefits of humor.
Your brain releases dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins when you laugh. Dopamine makes you feel attentive and motivated, while oxytocin is the bonding and empathy hormone. Endorphins trigger pleasurable feelings.
When Can You Use Humor?
You can use humor in some of these scenarios:
- When you feel stuck in a challenging situation
- When teaching or learning complex material
- In the middle of a tense negotiation
- If your team or employees are feeling scared
- To increase camaraderie between friends and family
- When you observe that a team is confused about a process
- When you don’t know the outcome of an action
- To motivate and engage a group of people
- During a long presentation
- When you’re feeling highly stressed
How Humor Can Help You
1. Overall Health
Laughter can improve heart health and sleep quality. It enables you to exercise your diaphragm and stimulate your lungs. Laughing can slightly increase the burning of calories and help you lose weight. A good laugh can also relax your muscles for up to 45 minutes and reduce your blood pressure.
2. Surgery Outcomes
Humor and laughing can make your immune system stronger. Immunity is key for surgery recovery and the healing of surgical wounds. Humor can also distract you and ease the physical pain when recovering from surgery.
3. Mental Health
Research shows that those with “a strong sense of humor were less prone to becoming anxious or depressed.” This could be due to the release theory of humor that states that people laugh to release suppressed emotions.
Studies have confirmed that humor can lower mortality rates, especially for women. In the research sample, humorous women had an 83% lower risk of death from infection, while humorous men experienced a 74% reduced risk of death by infections.
5. Life Satisfaction
Humor forms bonds between people and adds lightness and positivity to your conversations. Groups who laugh together feel safer to be their true selves. Since connections are a strong indicator of life satisfaction, humor can therefore increase your satisfaction with life.
Sometimes, there can be too much humor or inappropriate humor. For instance, laughing at a funeral or cracking a joke about a friend’s misfortune can be considered extremely insensitive. So, it is crucial to know when to use humor.