Benefits of humor
We don’t need scientists to tell us that laughing is fun and makes us feel better. Research is verifying that humor has many of the positive effects that funny people have long suspected.
Researchers have found that you can even “act as if” you are feeling an emotion—say, happiness or irritation—by arranging your face in a smile or a frown, and you are likely to feel that emotion. In a classic study, participants were instructed to hold a felt-tip marker in their mouths in a way that caused their facial muscles to be formed into a smile or a frown. While holding the marker this way, they were asked to view comic strips and say how funny they found them. Those whose facial muscles were mimicking a smile found the same comics funnier than those whose facial muscles were set into a frown.
Physical benefits of mirth and laughter:
- Increased endorphins and dopamine
- Increased relaxation response
- Reduced pain
- Reduced stress
Cognitive benefits of humor and mirth:
- Increased creativity
- Improved problem-solving ability
- Enhanced memory (for humorous material)
- Increased ability to cope with stress, by providing an alternative, less serious perspective on one’s problems
Emotional benefits of humor and mirth:
- Elevated mood and feelings of well-being
- Reduced depression, anxiety, and tension
- Increased self-esteem and resilience
- Increased hope, optimism, energy, and vigor
Social benefits of humor and mirth:
- Bonding with friends and family
- Reinforcement of group identity and cohesiveness
- Increased friendliness and altruism
- Increased attractiveness to others
- Happier marriages and close relationships
Laughing out loud, being quietly amused, anticipating something funny, and even forcing a smile or chuckle can all lead to increases in positive emotions and neutralize negative emotions, which can help keep us on the “upward spiral” to greater happiness.
"How Humor Makes You Friendlier, Sexier," Scientific American
WellSphere, Stanford University
The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph. D.
Positivity, by Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph. D.
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"The Psychology of Humor." Martin, R. A.
"Humor and Life Stress." Lefcourt, H. M., et al.
"Positive Affect as a Source of Human Strength." Isen, A. M. A Psychology of Human Strengths.
"Humor in Marital Adjustment." Rust, J., et al. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 2(3).
"Humor and Creativity." O'Quin, K., et al. The Creativity Handbook.
"Effects of humor on sentence memory." Schmidt, S. R. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 20(4).
Locate mental health and well-being support organizations in your area.