Benefits of a Good Laugh


ICM Discussion: The Benefits of Good Humor. (from Eric Barker, Barking up the Wrong Tree, July 24, 2016)


What Is Humor?

What is the purpose of humor? why do we laugh?

Humor is a complex phenomenon There is no general theory of humor or even an agreed definition.

  • Humor is comprised of three components: wit, mirth, and laughter.
    • Wit is the cognitive experience,
    • Mirth the emotional experience,
    • Laughter the physiological experience.
  • We often equate laughter with humor, but there are many instances of laughter (tickling, nervousness, etc.) that clearly have little to do with humor.
  • Similarly, there are many instances of humor that do not result in laughter (due to the mood of the appreciator, the social context, etc.).
  • Humor is a quality of perception that enables us to experience joy even when faced with adversity.
  • Stress is an adverse condition during which we may experience tension or fatigue, feel unpleasant emotions and sometimes develop a sense of hopelessness or futility.
  • You cannot feel stress, angry, depressed, anxious, guilty, or resentful and experience humor at the same time. [from Dr. Chaya Ostrower, What is Humor?]IMG_0917

When we laugh, the ventral tegmental area, the nucleus accumbens, and the amygdala are activated, all located in the dopamine circuit and are responsible for distributing dopamine throughout the brain.

  1. Research shows humor is a sign of intelligence:

The current study lends support to the prediction that effective humor production acts as an honest indicator of intelligence in humans.

  1. Humor makes you Happy

In studies of hundreds of adults, happiness was found to be related to humor. The ability to laugh, whether at life itself or at a good joke, is a source of life satisfaction. Indeed, those who enjoy silly humor are one-third more likely to feel happy. Meditation and calm music are stress relievers, but Watching comedy is three times as effective as relaxation when it comes to de-stressing.

Research shows that simple watching “friends” has been shown to reduce anxiety three times more effectively than sitting and resting.

  1. Humor helps in coping with stressful situation

When I interviewed Army Ranger Joe Asher he said humor was the attitude that got him through his incredibly difficult training:

If I can laugh once a day, every day I’m in Ranger School, I’ll make it through.

If you want to be resilient, laugh. It gets people through the toughest moments in life, including combat and severe illness.

Studies involving combat veterans (Hendin & Haas, 1984), cancer patients (Carver, 1993), and surgical patients (Culver et al., 2002) have found that when humor is used to reduce the threatening nature of stressful situations, it is associated with resilience and the capacity to tolerate stress (Martin, 2003).

  1. Humor improves work

Researchers have developed a general view that effective humor can increase the quantity and quality of group communications. One reason for that is that humor has also been demonstrated to increase trust. Professor William Hampes examined the relationship between humor and trust among eighty-nine college undergraduates ranging in age from sixteen to fifty-four and found a significant correlation. The people who scored high on a test that measured sense of humor were considered more trustworthy. 

It improves sales:

In one study, people trying to lower down the price of a landscape painting were willing to accept a higher cost if the seller joked, “I’ll throw in my pet frog.”

Enhances creativity

Folks who first watched a funny blooper reel were more successful at solving the task… than those who exercised or watched a math video. And in a more recent MIT study on idea generation, comedians asked to brainstorm new products generated, on average 20 percent more ideas than professional product designers, and their ideas were rated 25 percent more creative than those of the pros.

Criteria for good leadership

Harvard professor John Kotter observed 15 high-level executives. He found out that their meetings are far from formal and serious affairs: discussions usually contain a considerable amount of joking and kidding and nonwork-related issues.

Helps make credible presentation

You want to present a nice presentation but not so organized?  No problem. Just throw in some good jokes and people won’t notice.

…being funny helps hide flaws in our organization skills. Most of the time when we give speeches, we’re careful to organize our points in a logical and meaningful order. But studies have found that we can give those same speeches with points mixed at random, and as long as we also incorporate humor, viewers won’t notice.

  1. Humor is equated with good health

People who spontaneously use humor to cope with stress have especially healthy immune systems, are 40 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, experience less pain during dental surgery and live four and a half years longer than average.


Surgery patients who watched comedies asked for 25% less pain medication.

…when we assessed the personalities of these 243 centenarians, we found qualities that clearly reflect a positive attitude towards life. Most were outgoing, optimistic and easygoing. They considered laughter an important part of life and had a large social network…

On the basis of the results, the researchers recommended that people laugh for at least fifteen minutes each day.

  1. Humor improves  relationships

A 2007 study… Women ranked it first. For men it was number three, after intelligence and good looks.

…people who rate highly on tests of intimacy also have a good sense of humor. The same goes for trust, dependability, and kindness.

And if you want a marriage that lasts more than 50 years, laugh.

…studies of happy marriages, especially those lasting more than a half century, find spouses often ascribe their marital bliss in part to laughing together.

Plain and simple: more laughing means less fighting.

When both partners in a relationship thought the other had a good sense of humor, 67 percent less conflict was reported than in couples where neither thought the other had a good sense of humor.

Couples who know the power of humor can actually laugh together while they’re disagreeing.

John Gottman, he said this is key because it helps keep the two of you calm. Here’s John:

Humor is very powerful because it reduces physiological arousal during arguments and that’s been replicated in several studies.”

Results show preliminary support for the notion that reminiscing about laughter may have a more potent influence on relationship well being than reminiscing about other positive events.

If you don’t have time for more comedy, just spend your free time hanging around with friends who have a good sense of humor.

As Ruch’s study demonstrated, humor ratings can be influenced simply by exposing subjects to laughter. Other studies have found that subjects laugh more and rate jokes as funnier when a nearby actor shares their laughter…

And why is childhood something most people remember so fondly? Because we laughed more often then. Studies of five-year-olds have shown they laugh, on average, 7.7 times per hour, while the average American adult laughs just eighteen times a day.

If we want to be as happy as a kid, It might be as simple as laughing more with friends.


Prepared by hdlasco for International Christian Ministry (ICM) Searca Hostel, UPLB

This article was taken from: the blog post of Eric Barker. “Barking on the Wrong Tree”

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