Laugh to improve quality of life in five simple ways

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Nancy Lachapelle
  • 341st Medical Group
1. Humor wards off depression. Studies have shown people who possess a good sense of humor are less likely to become depressed and anxious than those whose sense of humor was not as good. 

Humor quite simply elevates mood ... your own and the moods of those around you. "Telling a joke, particularly one that illuminates a shared experience or problem, increases your sense of belonging and social cohesion," said John Morreall, Ph.D, president of Humor Works in Tampa, Fla. 

2. Humor stimulates creativity. Dr. Morreal believes humor helps people think more creatively. "Humor loosens up the mental gears. It encourages out-of-theordinary ways of looking at things," he said. 

William Fry, M.D. professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, also sees a relationship between humor and creativity. "Creativity and humor are identical. They both involve bringing together two items which have no obvious connection and creating a relationship," he said. 

3. Humor improves memory. Anecdotal evidence would certainly suggest the use of humor helps make lessons more memorable. From humorous posters in the workplace to sales meetings hosted by a funny facilitator, people seem to really remember presentations spiced with humor. 

4. Humor helps you feel more in control. Study after study on stress management has concluded that people who feel in control of their lives cope better under stress than those who don't feel a sense of control. Dr. Morreall feels control may be a corollary benefit of humor. 

"When we're stressed we often feel like we have no control over the situation. We feel helpless," he said. "But when we laugh, at least in our minds, we assume some control. We feel better able to handle it." 

One study at a Florida hospital showed that patients who were allowed to choose the humorous movies they saw required less pain killers than those who saw no movies. But a third group, who had no choice over the comedies they saw required more painkillers than the group who saw nothing. 

5. Humor relieves pain. Norman Cousins, author of the bestselling book Anatomy of an Illness, was told he had an incurable disease and would be racked with pain for the rest of his life. Mr. Cousins put himself on a steady diet of Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen and the Marx Brothers. He found that 15 minutes of hearty laughter provided him two hours of pain relief. Mr. Cousins quickly freed himself from the need for anesthetics and eventually accomplished a complete recovery from his illness. "Controlled studies show that laughter can increase pain thresholds," said Dr. Davis Sobel in his book Healthy Pleasures.