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Looking For the Funny Side

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                      Looking For the Funny Side
                                    Participant’s Handout

When was the last time you laughed                breathing and stress and pains are
really hard – a hearty, sidesplitting belly       lessened.
laugh? Or you laughed so hard you
forgot what triggered it, leaving you             Humor is like beauty in that it is in the
laughing without reason?                          eye of the beholder. What one person
                                                  considers appropriate or funny may be
Laughter keeps us young at heart. Its             inappropriate or not funny to others.
benefits are shown in our face, our               This often is the case in stressful
attitude, and the spring in our step.             situations.
Some laughter milestones include:
                                                  Humor creates distance from a stressful
   As, babies we start to laugh around           circumstance. When we make jokes
    10 weeks old.                                 about the situation, we make a mental
   At 16 weeks, we are laughing about            change in our thinking that makes it
    once every hour.                              easier to move to problem solving.
   By 4 years old, we laugh on an
    average of every 4 minutes.                   This is especially true in situations that
   As adults, we laugh only about 15             we cannot change. Healthy use of humor
    times a day.                                  does not encourage us to deny unhappy
                                                  feelings but gives new energy to do what
Stress and Change                                 needs to be done.

                                                   One of the best ways to benefit from
Research has found a sense of humor to
                                                  humor is to look for it in your everyday
be one of the characteristics in resilient
                                                  life. Many people with stressful jobs find
individuals and families. Stress causes
                                                  that looking for the humor in a situation
our muscles to get tense and tight. The
                                                  can help them get through the day.
more muscles tighten, the more tension
we feel and the more stressed out we
                                                  Ask yourself, “How will I feel about this
become.
                                                  next week? Will I find humor in this
                                                  event?”
Laughter releases the overwhelming
                                                  What is the worst thing that could
feeling of stress in three ways – relaxes
                                                  happen as a result of this?
the muscles, gives us a new perspective
and builds the immune system. Laughing
                                                  Learning to see the humor in daily life
uses 15 muscles and involves the whole
                                                  keeps the hassles from growing into
body! A good laugh leads to deeper
                                                  unmanageable stress.


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Physical and Psychological                  Psychological Benefits include:
Benefits of Humor
                                               Acts as coping mechanism that can
“A merry heart doeth good like a                relieve hostility and anger and can
medicine.” Besides relieving stress,            distance us from the burden of illness
laughter has many other benefits.               and disability
                                               Relieves anxiety, distress, anger and
Physical benefits include:                      depression
                                               Changes our perspective
   Exercises muscles and reduces              Provides an acceptable way of
    tension                                     enjoying usually forbidden topics
   Increases the respiratory system           Creates feelings of well-being, sense
   Decreases blood pressure and heart          of empowerment and control
    rate                                       Assists in creating and maintaining a
   Enhancing alertness, memory,                positive attitude, hope, energy and
    learning and creativity                     self-esteem
   Improves the immune system                 Creates change in behavior – reduces
   Improves digestion                          whining and complaining
   Relieves pain and tension
   Stimulates cardiovascular system        The American Culture
   Triggers endorphins
   Improves mental functioning             Maturity is often associated with
                                            “getting serious”, or being solemn and
Robust laughter is called internal          humorless. Humor is associated with
jogging, leaving your muscles, heart        being frivolous or foolish, or not being
rate, blood pressure, and breathing with    responsible.
the effects of a good workout. In fact, a
good laugh can also burn as many            Parents can inhibit our funny bone by
calories as brisk walking for an hour!      saying, “wipe that smile off your face”
                                            or “this is not a laughing matter.”
In 1979, Norman Cousins, in “Anatomy        However, humor is ranked as a top
of an Illness”, described his recovery      desirable attribute for life partners and
from a crippling connective tissue          employees.
disease that was supposed to be
irreversible. His self-prescribed therapy   Appropriate vs. Inappropriate
included checking into a hotel and          Humor
watching Marx Brother’s and other
comedy shows. This therapy was not          Three types of humor that have the
used instead of medical care, but in        potential for creating problems are:
addition to it. He found one hearty laugh
produced two hours of pain relief or 10        Sarcastic Humor-it must be used
minutes of belly laughter gave him two          carefully. It may be misunderstood
hours of pain-free sleep.                       by those who don’t know you well
                                                and can also be used at the expense
                                                of others.



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   Ethnic Humor –it can easily result in    remarks, telling jokes, or slapstick
    bias and prejudice. Laughter needs to    silliness?
    be with others, not at others.
                                             Spend some thinking about your sense of
   Humorous Ridicule-This is the            humor. Make notes of things you think
    cruelest and most devastating form       are funny. Just don’t make it a chore –
    of humor. It may damage a person’s       the fun will be gone if you get too
    self esteem and is sometimes used by     serious about this!
    someone who is compensating for
    his or her own lack of self-esteem.      Bringing Humor Into Your Life

A good rule of thumb is, “When in            Some tips to bring laughter into your life
doubt, don’t”. Others can feel put down,     include:
criticized or rejected even when it is not    Expose yourself to it
our intention.                                Keep a humor journal
                                              Tell jokes
Humor can be destructive if:                  Play with words or exaggerate
 It lowers self-esteem                       Laugh at yourself
 It perpetuates stereotypes                  Use humor instead of worry and
 It excludes someone                            anger
 It creates defensiveness                    Look for humor in everyday life
 It is used to discharge hostile,            Spend time with people who make
  cynical or resentful feelings                  you laugh
 It is used during a deeply distressing      Try smiling
  time (death of a loved one, during
  severe depression)                         Expose Yourself To Humor

Assessing Your Humor                         Actively seek things that make you
                                             laugh (funny movies, books, cartoons).
The first step to incorporating more         Post comics in places you will see them
humor in your life is to examine your        like the refrigerator, car, or desk at work.
sense of humor and determine a pattern.      Laugh at other’s jokes – even if it isn’t
What kinds of things do you find funny?      your style of humor. Find what you like.
Which TV shows do you find to be very
funny? Some people love shows such as        Keep a humor journal
“The Three Stooges”, while others find
such humor offensive. There is no right      Many people keep a journal to express
or wrong as to what is funny – it is a       their feelings or record their lives. Try
personal reaction.                           incorporating humor in your journal.
                                             Write down the things that made you
Another way to think about your sense        laugh or stick in a clipping of a cartoon
of humor is to ask yourself some             you particularly enjoyed. Include:
questions? Do you like to make others         Amusing remarks or errors
laugh or do you get more stress relief        Funny things your children say or do
from others’ humor? Do you prefer dry         Slips of the tongue
                                              Clever puns and witticisms


                                                                                       3
   Funny things that happen to you or a      sense of perspective. Step back and view
    friend                                    the situation from others point of view.
   Funny sayings to repeat to yourself       How would they react to see the clash
    when the going gets rough.                with the boss or the broken dishwasher
                                              that spilled all over?
Learn To Tell Jokes And Stories
                                              Allow yourself to relax and laugh at
Do you forget the punch line? If you are      your own mistakes and accept yourself
not comfortable telling jokes and stories,    as you are. Which things can you take
try these steps:                              gentle teasing about? These need to be
 Start with one joke or story until you      things about which you can also see the
     have it memorized. Writing it down       humor. If there are sensitive topics that
     in your journal or telling someone       you don’t feel OK about, gently let your
     else can help imprint it in your mind.   friends know the subject is off limits.
 Practice telling the story with family      Remember the reverse of this when you
     or friends so you will be relaxed        tease others.
 Limit yourself to one joke at a time
 Don’t laugh at your own jokes               The test for laughing at yourself is if you
 Tell only stories you know well.            can take teasing by others. We need
 Don’t apologize if others don’t laugh       things we are willing to be teased about
 Know when to stop joking and be             – our clumsiness, forgetfulness, or
     serious                                  mispronunciation of words. Recognize
                                              that until you can laugh at your own
                                              mistakes and shortcomings, your self-
Play with Words or Exaggerate
                                              esteem will not allow you to have much
                                              of a sense of humor.
Humor becomes a coping skill when you
can be spontaneous rather than using
memorized jokes.                              Use Humor Instead Of Worry
 Start with puns                             And Anger
 Listen for double meanings in words
 Connect the word with the other             Humor can help temper our strong
    meaning.                                  emotions. The next time you are angry,
 Be alert for alternate meanings in          try to use humor to express your feelings
    headlines, church bulletins, signs, etc   instead of anger. If you feel afraid or
                                              stressed, try saying something light. It
 exaggerate a situation to make things
                                              can help reduce the tension for everyone
    seem worse and help you look at
                                              involved.
    things in a realistic way.

                                              Look For Humor In Everyday Life
Laugh At Yourself

Ask yourself “Just how serious is this”       Humor is a healthy way of creating a
                                              distance between one’s self and a
when you find yourself taking things too
                                              problem, a way of standing off and
seriously. Keep a pair of funny glasses, a
purple hat, a rubber chicken or any prop      looking at one’s problem objectively.
that helps you lighten up and gain a



                                                                                        4
Whether it’s a changing life event or a                    thoughts and affect moods. So when we
little hassle, humor helps us detach                       put on a happy face during adversity or
ourselves and get a fresh look. We can                     say, “have a nice day” when we don’t
then find a solution – to either change                    feel like it, blood flow to the brain
the situation or to accept it.                             increases. We are actually changing our
                                                           hormone levels, which change our
Spend Time With People Who                                 moods. So if you can’t laugh, smile. If
Make You Laugh                                             you can’t smile, try faking it.

Try to spend time with the people who                      In summary, humor is characteristic of
                                                           resilient individuals and families.
make you feel good about yourself and
are pleasant to be with – who amuse,                       Laughing is proven to be healthy both
inspire, relax and loosen you up. Choose                   physically and psychologically. It is
                                                           especially beneficial when the event
friends who lighten the atmosphere and
boost your mood. Avoid spending time                       cannot be changed and gives a new
with chronic complainers and whiners                       perspective so we may find a way to
                                                           change the situation. Humor lightens our
who make you feel depressed. Try to
avoid becoming a part of negative                          worries, and gives us energy.
conversations and seek out others who
                                                           Laughter is contagious. It’s also cheap,
have a positive attitude.
                                                           effective, fat-free, salt-free, non-taxable,
                                                           environmentally safe, renewable, does
Smile                                                      not require batteries or assembly, and its
Research has shown that just changing                      side effects are pleasant.
your facial muscles can trigger different




Authors: Cheri Burcham, Patti Faughn, Amy Griswold, & Rachel Schwarzendruber
                                                             May, 2003



                University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
                                           United States Department of Agriculture  Local Extension Councils Cooperating
                                  University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment .




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