For many people, the past year has been a time of intense worry: about the health of loved ones, the education of youth, finances and many other concerns stemming from a global pandemic. But, these strange days have also provided an opportunity to slow down and find joy in more simple things. If you, your family or friends have relied on humour to cope with an uncertain future and social isolation, it may turn out to be a strategy that could add years to your life.
Researchers have found that humour can not only dispel tension, but levity can also help build bonds between people, bolster innovation and boost resilience. During times of stress, strain and social isolation, embracing the silly moments in life can be a game-changer.
A recent 15-year Norwegian study found that both physical and mental health benefit from having a sense of humour. Experiencing joy in everyday activities and having a good laugh can help make people less prone to chronic illness. People who said they had a good sense of humour lived, on average, eight years longer and were 30 percent more resistant to severe disease.
When we have a good chuckle with someone who “gets” our sense of humour, the brain releases endorphins – the feel-good hormone. Laughter also lowers cortisol released during times of stress. The body’s flight or fight response, if prolonged, can be physically and cognitively damaging. But when people share a laugh, the trust/love hormone oxytocin is released. So while people may not always be in physical contact with friends and family, they can get some of the same “high” through a shared joke or funny observation.
When so many are disconnected from others, couples who have a shared sense of humour and laugh together often report feeling more satisfied in their relationships. A good sense of humour is more than keeping a positive mindset, which is also beneficial to combat stress and anxiety, laughter keeps bonds in a relationship strong.
Using comedy also helps leaders in the workforce motivate employees or peers, reduce stress and encourage collaboration. Even if the joke isn’t really all that funny, demonstrating an effort to lighten the mood can help people feel freer to express themselves and make a greater contribution with confidence. Having a sense of humour doesn’t have to mean cracking jokes all day – but a well-timed funny comment can cut through the tension and help make difficult times more bearable.
Not sure how to bring more joy and humour back into your life? Try writing down a few things each day that brought you happiness or made you laugh. When people notice the positive, happy and uplifting elements in each day, they are training their brains to create more moments of joy. By bringing a little laughter back into the world, we can all help one another enjoy a more fulfilling, happier and perhaps longer life.
Read more about the power of humour in the newly published book by authors and Stanford professors Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas – Humour, Seriously: Why Humor is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life (and How Anyone Can Harness It. Even You.)