The Science of Humor

Dear Friends,

This week I (Mandy) babysat my grandson, six months old Denny. Denny is a happy baby – he smiles and belly laughs constantly. He loves silly songs and stories and anything with anticipation. For instance, he loves stories like “This little piggy…”.  His happiness makes me happy. I began to think about smiling and laughing, and humor in general:

Here he is asleep under a cherry tree after much fun and games. Completely worn out.

NAP TIME by Mandy Seligman
Perfect place to nap. 

Arthur Brooks, one of our favorite columnists, has this to say: “Consuming humor brings joy and relieves suffering”. In a 2010 study from the Journal of Aging Research, the researchers gave one group of senior citizens “humor therapy”—daily jokes, laughter exercises, funny stories, and the like—for eight weeks. A control group did not receive this therapy. At the end of the experiment, the people in the first group reported feeling 42 percent happier than they had at the beginning. They were 35 percent happier than the second group, and experienced decreases in pain and loneliness.”

However, Arthur goes on to say that the type of humor matters. “Humor can be positive, when it’s not intended to belittle or harm others, or when one laughs at one’s own circumstance. Laughter itself is what brings a lot of humor’s benefits, not necessarily making other people laugh. Laughter also acts as a social lubricant, making interactions easier even when there is no humor involved. Indeed, one study found that only 10 to15 percent of laughing is due to anything even remotely humorous. Much of the rest is meant to display emotions such as agreement or simple conviviality.”

He suggests the following:

1. Reject grimness.

2. Don’t worry about being funny.

3. Stay positive.

“Humor has an almost anesthetic quality to it lowering the focus on pain and allowing us to remember the joys in life.” -Arthur Brooks

Thank you once again Arthur!

Humor is one of the strengths celebrated in Positive Psychology and it turns out that using your strengths more everyday increases your wellbeing – so if you are naturally humorous  – go for it – you will be increasing your own happiness and that of  everyone else around you. If you are not naturally funny, sit back and enjoy those that are. Let’s all look for the laughter in life.
 

Mandy and The SeeingHappy Team

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