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by Sam Stodghill, Psy.D.
“A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22
At a recent Mass a priest told a funny story to reinforce his message of sacrifice and giving. A mother preparing pancakes for her two young sons tried to insert a moral lesson when they argued over who would get the first one: “Boys, if Jesus were here, I bet he would say, let my brother have the first pancake; I can wait.” Without skipping a beat, the five year-old turned to his younger brother and said, “Why don’t you be Jesus?” The congregation had a good laugh, the message was reinforced, and the local diner was overrun with hungry, pancake-ordering parishioners a little over an hour later.
The priest achieved his goal of conveying an important message to his audience, but research suggests that his use of humor could have had at least two additional positive consequences. First, individuals experience a range of physical, cognitive and emotional benefits from the physical act of laughter.1,2,3 In addition, research suggests that the act of sharing a humorous moment as a group can be beneficial for the members’ relationships with one another, thereby resulting in a positive impact on the health and stability of the group as a whole. 4
Positive Effects– Individuals
There are a variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits associated with humor, such as: 1-3
Cognitive & Emotional
Positive Impacts – Groups
Shared humor has a variety of social benefits, such as: 4
Sharing Humor Appropriately
To learn more ways to bring laughter into your life, see the following resources:
1Wooten, P. (1996). Humor an antidote for stress. Holistic Nursing Practice, 10(2), 49-55.
2Bennet, M. & Lengacher, C. (2008). Humor and laughter may influence health: III. laughter and health outcomes. Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, 5(1), 37-40.
3Bennet, M. & Lengacher, C. (2009). Humor and laughter may influence health: IV. humor and immune function. Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, 6(2), 159-164.
4Stambor, Z. (2006). The chuckle connection. Monitor On Psychology, 37(6), 60-61.
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