Lu Writes is a column devoted to Cultural Psychology which looks at human experience as a matter of interaction between the world and the self.
Dr. George Boeree, a retired professor who taught personality theories (among other things) at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, defines this theory on his Social Psychology Basics page. He writes:
“Social Psychology, at its simplest, the world gives us events; we in turn give those events meaning by interpreting and acting upon them.”
Topics that fall under this umbrella make for great “water-cooler-gab” in the office. Subjects might include: the mystery of physical attraction; interpreting body language; the psychology behind advertising; group dynamics and racism; aggression and crime; problem solving; individual identity; grieving; Forensic Psychology; profiling; the list is endless!
One topic that I’ve always found fascinating is how individuals can use humor for their own benefit.
“You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything-even poverty-you can survive it.”~ Bill Cosby
Humor can be used in all kinds of situations. It can be a way of persuading or improving social connections; it helps build communication;It also deflects criticism, removes hostility and improves morale.
Humor is good for your health.
It lowers blood pressure, improves breathing, and is good for your heart. It has been proven to increase pain tolerance; heighten self-esteem; enhance creativity and problem solving; build group identity and enhance memory.
In the article, Laughter is the Best Medicine-The Health Benefits of Humor and Laughter, written by Melinda Smith, M.A., Gina Kemp, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. it was reported that there is a link between laughter and mental health or happiness and the brain. According to these contributors: laughter is a stress buster; laughter helps you to relax and recharge; humor helps you see things with a healthier perspective.
According to Smith, Kemp and Segal, some of the benefits include:
- Lowers stress hormones
- Decreases pain
- Boosts immunity
- Relaxes muscles
Mental Health Benefits:
- Eases anxiety and fear
- Improves mood
- Enhances resilience
- Strengthens relationships
- Attracts others to us
- Enhances teamwork
- Helps defuse conflict
- Promotes group bonding
Freud was a believer in the many benefits of humor. He believed that humor releases tension because repressed impulses are allowed expression via the element of surprise. Sexual humor would be an example of this Freudian view.
People may even use humor as a way to handle objections. According to changingminds.org:
“When you receive objections, it can be very frustrating and it is very easy for these emotions to leak out. By reframing the situation with gentle humor, you can show that you are not offended by their refusal.”
According to Changing Minds, there are certain techniques or guidelines in using humor appropriately. They reported:
“Do not respond with negative emotions such as anger or frustration. Defuse the tension with gentle humor, maybe feigning shock or otherwise poking fun at yourself. Be careful about not making them the object of humor.”
Humor can help you succeed.
"Laughing All The Way ToThe Bank" is an article published in the Harvard Business Review, (September 2003). The author, Fabio Sala, reported that executives, who were ranked as outstanding, used humor (positive or neutral humor) over twice as often than those ranked average (17.8 times/hr vs. 7.5 times/hr). They also received greater bonuses because of their effective use of humor.
Humor is used as a marker for emotional intelligence and that may be why people who use humor in the workplace may receive more bonuses or benefits. For example, when negotiating, playful joking helps the other person to relax and this increases the likelihood of gaining a financial concession.
Humor increases creativity.
R. W. Clouse and K. L. Spurgeon co-wrote the article, “Corporate Analysis of Humor”, published in Psychology: A Journal of Human Behavior (1995). Their research indicated that a good joke or playful laughter boosts creativity and a more trusting atmosphere.
Humor and motivation are linked.
Brain imaging supports the view that humor and motivation are linked and that humor can be an effective tool used in medical treatment for some individuals.
An interesting article, “Functional Anatomy of Humor: Positive Affect and Chronic Mental Illness”, was written by Katherine H. Taber, Ph.D., Maurice Redden, M.D., and Robin A. Hurley, M.D. and was included in one section of Windows To The Brain.
“Positive emotions presumably activate areas of the brain involved in reward. The dopamine system is a critical component of the brain reward circuitry, important for motivation, affect and reward-associated functions.”
They also reported in their article:
“Humor has been integrated into the practice of medicine in multiple ways. Clowns have been used in medicine for about two decades. A recent study compared anxiety levels between children accompanied only by parents and children accompanied by both parents and clowns. During the preoperative period prior to minor surgery the presence of clowns was associated with significantly lower preoperative anxiety, supporting a therapeutic benefit. And perhaps the most common use of humor is to decrease the sense of isolation that is prevalent with some mental health care workers. Laughter and humor benefit both the sender and receiver by spreading positive emotions that promote stability, decrease negativity, moderate stress, and strengthen group identity and cohesion.”
Humor may help in psychiatric evaluations and facilitate the therapeutic process.
William Bernet M.D. wrote an interesting article, “Humor in Evaluating and Treating Children and Adolescents”. He reported:
"Humor can provide useful information during the psychiatric evaluation of children and adolescents and can also facilitate the therapeutic process. Clinical examples demonstrate how humor is useful as a diagnostic tool; how it can be used to shape the therapeutic relationship; and the role of humor as a therapeutic technique. Humor may help the child and adolescent patient explore feelings and may help the therapist deal with resistance. In some circumstances, the humor itself can become an agent of change. Humor has been used in the treatment of depression, aggression, social ineptitude, and conduct problems.”
Both the benefits and the risks of using humor are discussed in Bernet's article. He warns the reader that humor can have negative consequences if it is used improperly.
Humor helps many people cope more successfully.
Having a sense of humor may even help someone cope better during difficult life situations. Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), the US abolitionist and clergyman, once said:
“A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs-jolted by every pebble in the road.”
Humor is good for you. Include it in your daily routine, the same way you remember to exercise, brush your teeth or walk your dog.
“Make today happy. Fill it with laughter”~ LU
Hope to see you back here next Wednesday for another article in “Lu Writes”.
- Fabio Sala, Laughing all the way to the bank, Harvard Business Review, September 2003, pp 16-17
- R. W. Clouse and K. L. Spurgeon, Corporate Analysis of Humor, Psychology: A Journal of Human Behavior 32 (1995). pp 1-24
- Journal of Neuropsychiatry Clinical Neuroscience 19:4, Fall 2007
- Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research 2: 307-317, 1993
- Psychiatric News and American Psychiatric Association 36: 16, 2001