Woody Allen says, “Life is full of misery, and suffering, and it’s all over too soon.” The ironic humor of that statement will be the kernel of the subject matter to be dealt with here; humor and coping with life. Nancy Recker, an educator and Associate Professor at Ohio State University states that, “There is a definite lack of laughter in today’s world. Looking at life’s situations with a sense of humor and laughter provides perspective and helps to keep things in balance when life seems unfair.” Now, we all experience negative situations in our daily lives, just about every day there is some frustration of one kind or another. And no, humor and laughter are not going to make problems go away, but life’s load seems to be much lighter when there can be a smile on your face. Also, humor is a tool that can be developed or improved upon through practice. I myself have noticed that a sharp wit can cut through a lot of bullcrap. I know this to be true because that crap is usually my own. We are all constantly bombarded with some type of negativity; from the media, family situations sometimes can be trying, social and economic woes, and a myriad of other sources. These tension builders and anxiety providers can and do cause damage to our bodies. From depression and anger to hypertension and mania, this constant source of negativity can sometimes stop a person dead in their tracks. A small example may be the feelings one may encounter when stuck behind an ill-prepared person fumbling for their check book at the cashier, or when a computer decides your session has expired. These are just small examples, and I am sure you are familiar with these, and other negative occurrences which are part and parcel of everyday life. Can anything be done? Solving problems is obvious, but one should have some motivation to act. This is where humor may help. There can be many emotional ways in which to encounter a problem: with anger maybe, with fear, or just plain indifference. But I propose to you that employing a healthy sense of humor works very well when facing up to problems, with the added benefit of being healthy for your mind and body. I know having a sense of humor has helped me through many incidents in the past, and I was able to rebound from some disasters at a much more effective rate because of humor. From my own childhood traumas, and ill-health, to psychiatric commitment, and other sordid episodes, I must give humor due credit for the well-balanced person I am today. Also, research from the Mayo Clinic asserts that laughter enhances your oxygen intake, stimulates your heart, and increases the flow of endorphins. They go on to state that laughter can help fight stress, making it easier to cope with difficult situations. Therese J. Borchard, an associate editor of World of Psychology, says that humor helps combat fear, boosts the immune system, helps in communication, and brings comfort and relaxation. Studies from the Baylor College of Medicine suggest that humor paves the way to romance. Women in a study ranked men with a sense of humor as better potential partners. I must say that I have found that to be true, because women make it a point of not returning my calls when I weep uncontrollably during sex. (You may laugh at will at this point). But why do we laugh, and how can we improve our skills? In an experiment performed by Robert Lynch, a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology of Rutgers University found that laughter is a sign that we shared in a subjective truth and that humor acts as a bond. Laughter is universal, everyone laughs at something though there are differences in the subject matter. Nancy Recker also states that, “Humor is an important, but often overlooked tool, and it is important to learn to laugh. A good sense of humor doesn’t just happen, but here are some suggestions to help add some laughter to your life. Recognize the value of humor. (See above). Try to think funny. Learn to laugh at the incongruities of life. (No, life has never been fair and not likely to be fair in the near future). Or keep a notebook, and learn to laugh at yourself.” I myself have found humor and the ability to laugh at myself to be a fun way of gaining personal insight. And so I now appeal to your humanity, your good-will, high intelligence, wonderful personalities, and devastating good looks, to try to smile just a little, even if you don’t feel like it, and see if you don’t notice a change.
Baylor College of Medicine-Helen Parsons
Family and Consumer Sciences-The Ohio State University-Nancy Recker, Associate Professor
Rutgers University-Robert Lynch-Dept. of Anthropology
Therese J. Borchard-Associate Editor- Psych Central- World of Psychology
This was a slightly modified form of a speech given by Thomas Brown (author)