For me, humor has always been a beacon calling me back to the light. Even in the darkest moments, I have always found a way to find that little bit of irony or even that slightly inappropriate joke to keep me from sinking too far down. A good laugh (even through tears) has been my lift raft more times than I can remember and in some moments that I will never forget.
Humor has also been my first means of connection. As someone who travels and meets new people on a regular basis, it is my way of reaching out and showing an authentic version of who I am right from that first impression. It is as engrained into my persona as my appearance, style, anxiety, passion or creativity. In celebration of Global Belly Laugh Day, I wanted to highlight the wonderful power of a good laugh and how it can do much more than just bring a smile to your face.
Humor can lessen or even take the place of negative emotions.
No one likes to feel sad or scared. And for me, my defense mechanism for avoiding or lessening the brunt of those emotions is to try to mix in some humor. A 2013 article by Dr. Gina Barreca for Psychology Today entitled Laughing at the Scary Stuff: Humor and Fear explains, “Laughterbanishes anxiety, and can help replace fear. Laughter is a testament to courage, or at least a manifestation of the wish for it, and courage is stronger than fear.”
There is a big connection between fear and imagination – as it is essentially the result of thinking up all of the negative things that could happen in the future. And those with a vivid imagination can think up more terrible things. I am definitely someone with a vivid imagination. When I walk anywhere outside of a city at night, I imagine all of the things that could burst out of the bushes to attack me. When I screw up at work, I think of all of the difficulties I will have surviving if I lose my job. When there is the chance for adventure, my mind can quickly turn it into the chance for hundreds of different disasters.
By turning these fears into something funny or ridiculous, it seems to take their power away. No longer does it seem so certain that something bad will happen when the absurd option is just as likely.
When it comes to turning sadness into laughter, it is always about a change of perspective. One example of this is that I recently had the experience of attending an Irish-style wake with whiskey and stories and then a formal funeral for the same person. While the funeral gave me a sense of closure and allowed me to feel the loss that I have carried with me since, the wake – where most stories told were funny and heartwarming – gave me the strength that I needed to focus on how grateful to have had this person in my life at all rather than simply suffering grief at their death.
Humor reduces stress.
As someone who suffers from anxiety and as a person who is always seeking new challenges at work and elsewhere in life, stress is always going to be a part of my world. And at the worst of times, I have tried everything from medication to therapy to journaling as a way of coping with stress. The one thing that has always worked for me is to make sure that I always have a consistent supply of happiness and laughter in my life.
Elizabeth Scott in her article The Stress Management and Health Benefits of Laughter for About Health lists some of the benefits of laughter and they include: the release of stress reducing hormones, a physical release, an internal workout and a change of perspective.
It is amazing how healing the affects of a good laugh can really be when you’re at the height of stress. And all it really takes to start to feel your chest and shoulders release or to open your thoughts up to something more positive is just one funny thought, a humorous twist or even one of the millions of funny animal videos available online. Laughter is a great way of refocusing on the present rather than worrying about the future or remaining trapped in the past.
Humor spreads joy and goodwill.
As I said at the beginning of this article, humor is one of my primary means of communication. The greatest relationships and friendships of my life have been strengthened by a shared sense of humor and laughing together is a great way of breaking the ice with someone new. Research shows that you can’t feel a negative and a positive emotion about something at the same time. So, the more positive moments that you can share with a person, the more likely it is that a positive relationship will form between you.
There is also a lot of power and influence that can come from spreading positivity and good humor. Many people are more willing to accept new information and even get behind a cause if the person delivering the message is approachable and enjoyable to listen to.
Humor is something that we can never get enough of in our lives. It is said that a baby laughs upwards of 400 times in a single day but the average adult only laughs about 15 times. Make happiness and laughter a priority in your life and you will quickly see all of the rewards that it can bring.
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