Engage your Funny bone. Humor improves emotion, cognition, behavior and enhances relationships with others.

1. Mirth (an emotional reaction to humor) reduces distressing emotion. Research clearly indicates that chronic distressing emotions (depression, anger, anxiety, and stress) are directly related to ill health. Distressing emotions and the experience of humor cannot “occupy the same psychological space.” Therefore, humor (as it triggers mirth) has a health benefit. Of course, it also feels good emotionally. We enjoy feeling humor.

2. Wit is the cognitive reaction to humor and it shifts thinking from negative to positive. Most emotional distress is directly related to negative thinking. Relive the negative thinking and you relieve the emotional distress. A positive attitude is healthful in direct and indirect ways. Activating the funny bone activates perspective on life’s challenges, and therefore, reduces the distress created by negative thinking. Also, those with positive attitudes are more likely to engage in health-oriented activities. As one engages his/her funny bone he/she will do things in self-care that support heart health (exercise, weight loss, nutritional activities, engaging with others, etc.).

3. Laughter (as a physical experience) can have a multiple health impacts such as reducing pain, lowering blood pressure, and increasing the immune system. Of course, it also physically feels good.

4. Social Lubrication is a result of experiencing humor. Humor bonds people together. We like those who use humor with us.

Here are some simple tips to add humor into one’s life:

Tip 1: Visualize one of your favorite humorous experiences. For example, one where you laughed so hard you cried or fell down. This can help you in at least 3 healthy ways. First, when you laugh you exercise your muscles and reduce stress physically. Second, when you experience humor, distressing emotions (depression, anxiety, anger, guilt and resentment disappear—even if only for a moment), and third, the experience of humor adds perspective making the stressors of life less potent. It is quick, free, easy, and takes less than 60 seconds!

Tip 2: Carry and use a playful prop. I carry a clown nose, an Elvis Driver’s license, a magic thumb, official ID with a clown nose, etc. In my car I carry mental floss, bubbles, clown wigs, etc. My Elvis driver’s license has been a great hit at airport security as well as at rental car agencies and hotels.

Tip 3: Look to the humor around you. Each day find a “funny” in your environment. Have your kids help. Here are a few of examples: As one approaches Baltimore International Airport there is a sign that reads: Satellite Parking, Next Exit. (How many satellites do you seeing coming in for a landing?) A sign at a restaurant reads, “Children left unattended will be towed at the owner’s expense.” A sign on the freeway approaching San Diego once read, “Cruise Ships, Use airport Exit.” Are there that many Cruise ships on the freeway? Finally, in the galley of Virgin Atlantic Airlines are canvas recycling bags that read, “Virgin Recycling.”

Tip 4: Have a “humor buddy.” Have someone with whom you purposely and intentionally share humor on a regular (every day??) basis.