Have you noticed that happy people generally have a great sense of humor? It turns out that this is no coincidence. Humor improves moods, exercises your brain, improves relationships, and can even reduce physical and emotional pain. In fact, neurologists and psychologists are finding scientific evidence of the healing powers of a good sense of humor.
Studies published by the University of London Institute of Neurology have shown that a good joke results in activating parts of the brain that are important for learning and comprehension. Using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), a technology that literally scans the brain and can show real time changes in regional brain activation, neurologists discovered that when you are processing a good joke, it is much the same as solving a brain teaser. In other words, humor actually improves your brains ability to learn and comprehend.
Funny situations also result in the release of dopamine, a natural opiate that is produced in the brain and instantly improves moods, reduces physical pain, and can even improve your health by boosting immunity.
In addition to its neurobiological benefits, a good sense of humor can strengthen relationships, defuse anger and aggression, and communicate affection. In short, having a great sense of humor makes people much more fun to be around. After all, moods are contagious, and so is laughter.
Four great ways to keep your sense of humor
Reframe daily stresses so they are humorous. You may have been in an unpleasant situation at some time in your life when somebody in the group cracked a joke. Generally, when we insert humor into difficult situations people are able to look at them differently, and possibly realize ways to deal more effectively with the challenges. Humor is an excellent coping mechanism.
Laugh often. Look for reasons to smile and laugh. Actively seek them out. Laughter is a great stress buster. The more we smile and laugh, and the more try and see the humor in events and situations, the less stressed we will be. And as we regularly reduce stress through laughter and humor, we improve our moods, which generally results in being happier, friendlier, and more fun to be around.
Hang around happy people. Moods are contagious and they feed off each other, so if you are around happy people, you are most likely going to be happier yourself.
Take care of yourself. While humor is a great way to manage stress, it is not the only way. It is much easier to have a sense of humor if you use other ways to manage stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating well, exercising, developing good social networks, and managing time well are all ways to help manage stress.