You don’t laugh enough. Yes, humor can improve your life. Not too surprising, you say?
Here’s the problem: you treat humor like a nice thing that happens, oh, whenever. But scientific research is showing giggles, guffaws and jokes are far too important to be left to chance.
We’re gonna learn the best ways to use humor to make you happier, healthier, more successful at work and even to improve your relationships.
First, let’s learn the neuroscience of why we laugh. Why are funny things funny? What’s going on in your brain that makes you giggle so hard you snort?
What Is Humor?
Humor is your brain rewarding you for finding errors and inconsistencies in your thinking.
Your brain needs to encourage you to update your incorrect ideas about the world and, like giving a dog a treat, it rewards you with a burst of pleasure. Instead of a biscuit, you get a shot of dopamine.
And so it’s no surprise that those who have more horsepower to update those beliefs are funnier. Yup, research shows humor is a sign of intelligence:
(To learn how to be funny, click here.)
So laughs are the reward we get for improving our belief system. How can you use it to reduce stress, build grit and be happier all around?
Humor Makes You Happy
No surprise — yes, laughing makes you happier.
Your brain really likes it when you correct those errors. In fact, when you’re stressed, you should be seeking out comedy like a bloodhound.
Meditation and calm music might seem like good ways to chill out but they pale in comparison to jokes. Watching comedy is three times as effective as relaxation when it comes to de-stressing.
And don’t just look for laughs when the stress is gone. You want to be joking through the pain. Humor can be a great way to develop that “grit” everyone keeps talking about.
What do the grittiest people imaginable have to say? When I interviewed Army Ranger Joe Asher he said this was the attitude that got him through his incredibly difficult training:
Navy SEAL Platoon Commander James Waters told me the same thing about getting through his training:
And the research backs this up. If you want to be resilient, laugh. It gets people through the toughest moments in life, including combat and severe illness.
(To learn the fun way to make your life awesome, click here.)
So more humor means happiness and less stress. But you need to be serious when you get to work, right? Wrong.
Humor Improves Work
Research has shown that humor helps teams bond, increases the quantity and quality of communication, and builds trust.
Want to be a better negotiator? Tell a joke.
And just watching bloopers before trying to solve a problem made people more creative.
Want to be a better leader? Harvard professor John Kotter shadowed 15 high-level executives. What did he find out about their meetings? They’re far from formal and serious affairs:
Want to give a presentation like a top-notch exec — but you’re not as organized as you’d like to be? No problem. Just throw in some good jokes and people won’t notice.
(To learn how to be happier and more successful, click here.)
So humor makes you happier and better at work. But how does it score in that category I like to call “helping you not die”?
Humor = Health
People who use humor to cope with life’s challenges have more robust immune systems and are 40% less likely to have a stroke or heart attack.
Surgery patients who watched comedies asked for 25% less pain medication.
And when you survey people who have lived past the age of 100, what do you find? “They considered laughter an important part of life…”
Researchers have a prescription to improve your health that doesn’t involve medication: laugh for a minimum of 15 minutes a day.
(To learn the best way to motivate yourself to exercise, click here.)
So you can laugh your way to happiness, success at the office, and health. But what about romance?
Humor Improves Relationships
Humor makes you sexy. It ranked as the #2 most attractive quality.
(In fact, humor is so sexy research shows you can predict how many women a man has slept with by how funny he is.)
What’s interesting is that humor also correlates with intimacy, trust, dependability and kindness. Not too shabby.
And if you want a marriage that lasts more than 50 years, laugh.
Plain and simple: more laughing means less fighting.
But you’re going to argue at some point, right? Of course. But responsive partners who know the power of humor can actually laugh together while they’re disagreeing.
Want a quick way to give your romantic relationship a booster shot? It’s simple: reminisce about the timesyou laughed together:
(To learn how to be funny, click here.)
Okay, we learned a lot. Let’s round everything up and learn the simple way to put this to use and get more laughs in your life…
Here’s how humor can improve your life:
- Humor makes you happy: Watching comedy is three times as effective at reducing stress than just relaxing.
- Giggles make you more successful: Jokes build trust, improve negotiations, make you more creative — and help others ignore your missteps.
- Humor improves health: Better immunity, fewer heart attacks, less pain and a longer life.
- Laughs increase love: Don’t reminisce about that vacation. Recollect the time you two laughed so hard you cried.
If you don’t have time for more comedy, you’re not doomed. Just spend your free time hanging around with friends who have a good sense of humor.
Not only will you laugh more because they tickle your funny bone, you’ll laugh more because you’re around others who are laughing.
Need a laugh right now? Here’s Louis CK talking about turning 40 (NSFW):
In closing, why is childhood something most people remember so fondly? Maybe it’s because we laughed more then. Actually, a lot more.
Want to be as happy as you were as a kid? It might be as simple as laughing more with friends.
Join over 262,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.
- Inside Mississippi's Last Abortion Clinic—and the Biggest Fight for Abortion Rights in a Generation
- Do Current COVID-19 Tests Still Detect Omicron?
- The First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Could Be a Lifeline for Struggling New England Cities
- Welcome to TV's Era of Peak Redundancy
- The Key Role a Local Newspaper Played in the Trial Over Ahmaud Arbery's Murder
- TIME's Top 100 Photos of 2021
- 2021: The Year the Grift Kept Giving