Have you ever known someone who appears to have no sense of humor? They seem to have a rather dry personality and take life seriously.
Many of us have known someone at the opposite extreme – they are rarely serious and often seem rather manic in behavior, which is often used as a defensive strategy to mask fear.
A healthy sense of humor is one that is balanced between the two extremes.
Affectionate teasing, wit, absurdity – these are all light, positive aspects of humor which increase creativity and interpersonal connection.
Sarcasm, self-deprecation, or jokes at the expense of others are heavy and negative aspects – tactless pokes at others or oneself. These more negatives forms often serve the purpose of deflecting attention and focus from painful emotions.
Most people will list a healthy sense of humor as their most desirable trait in a friend or romantic partner, the lightness of being that understands and shares human frailties and absurdities.
The International Society for Humor Studies, whose members are experts in the arts and sciences, is one of many organizations studying this human trait. Social activist and physician Dr. Patch Adams was made famous in the movie by the same name starring Robin Williams, demonstrating his focus on humor as medicine. Adams developed the Gesundheit Institute to study and disseminate information about better delivery of health care to support the whole person.
Many people are aware that Dr. Norman Cousins claims to have cured himself of a terminal disease with intensive laughter therapy. His journey was detailed in his book, Anatomy of an Illness.
And laughter yoga is now a very popular, and effective, form of self-care, in which deliberate laughter exercises affect body, mind and spirit based on that well-known concept of “contagious laughter.”
It is well-known that humor can lower stress levels and improve relationships. A cheerful outlook makes you more attractive to others and helps keep your own mood elevated.
You can cultivate your own sense of humor with practice.
- Notice the ridiculous or funny aspects of an annoying situation to lighten the energy.
- Regularly expose yourself to comedy – movies, books, comedy concerts.
- Engage others in conversations about funny happenings and entertaining outlooks.
- Doodle funny cartoons or caricatures.
- Play with children and/or animals
Find ways to stretch your “humor” muscles to bring more lightness to your mood and your life.