The Power of Humor

Posted by Michael Dale Kimmel in Columns 29 Jan 2015

blog-0848309001363495993Perhaps only God Himself/Herself is more important than humor.  Seriously.

Psychological research has found that when people list the qualities they desire in a partner, a good sense of humor consistently shows up near the top.  For some of us, a good sense of humor is more important than physical appearance or socioeconomic status.  Perhaps life is so hard that a humorless partner is too much to bear.  When the road gets rough, it’s great to have a partner you can laugh with at all the absurdities along the way.

Humor can defuse tense situations and change the mood from serious and heavy to lighter and more balanced.  A good sense of humor is a tangible asset …but can it be cultivated?  If you’re pretty humorless, are you doomed to be this way forever?  The good news is:  no.  A sense of humor can be developed just like any other personality trait.  This is great news, particularly for those of us who have been told: “You have no sense of humor” or asked, “Where’s your sense of humor?”  A sense of humor can be cultivated; read on…

Ironically, having a good sense of humor is serious business.  Humor is no silly little thing; it’s part of your life force, right up there with breathing and eating.  Just for a moment, Imagine that you are having trouble breathing.  It has been proven that telling a joke to hospital patients who suffer from asthma or respiratory problems helps them breathe more easily.  Humor lowers panicky feelings that contribute to poor breathing.  In fact, a well-developed sense of humor has been linked to improved all-around physical and mental health in study-after-study:  it strengthens immune systems, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress on the organs and muscles, etc.

Take a few minutes and get in touch with your own sense of humor (or lack of it) and ask yourself:

When was the last time you laughed?  I mean REALLY laughed:  a loud, spontaneous, big belly laugh?

Make a list of things that you find funny.  It can be a person, a TV show, movie or comedian, a comic strip…it doesn’t matter, write down a few things that you find funny.

Can you laugh at yourself?  When was the last time you did something “weird” and were able to laugh at yourself?

If it’s difficult for you to answer these questions, I urge you to spend some time cultivating your sense of humor.  Not only is it good for your health, it also makes you more attractive.  Men who can laugh at themselves tell the world that they love themselves enough that they don’t have to pretend to be perfect…that it’s okay to fall on your butt now and then, grin sheepishly, get up and move on.

Humor is innately anti-perfectionistic.  Unlike perfectionists, men with a well-developed sense of humor know they’re totally human, will inevitably mess up something important and appear vulnerable when they do.  Humor is a form of kindness to yourself and everyone around you.  Research shows that people with a well-developed sense of humor live longer, much happier lives.  They’re more pleasant to be around because they’re less demanding of others.  They make better parents, bosses, friends and partners. This may sound impossible for you perfectionist guys (enneagram anyone?) reading this.  Perfectionists and other people who are hard on themselves won’t see the humor in their mistakes, instead, they berate themselves for not doing everything perfectly.  But perfectionism is a learned characteristic and can be unlearned.  .

Wherever you are in your life, you can improve your self of humor:  it’s not a fixed quality.  Start small:  be willing to laugh at little things that you find funny.  It can be something you do or something someone else does.  Watch funny movies or videos.  Ask people to tell you jokes and try telling a few jokes on your own.  Like any skill, it takes practice.  Don’t give up after one or two tries and say, “I can’t do it.”  Persist and experiment.  After all, it’s not brain surgery: have some fun with it!