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Why everybody needs a good sense of humor

According to Wikipedia, humor is “the tendency of experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement”. The origin of the term is in the Latin word humor, which means body fluid, something the ancient Greeks believed could control human health and emotions. Although defining humor doesn’t sound funny—as writer E.B. White once said, "Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process.", it’s safe to assume that humor is inherent to human beings. It’s a key part of our lives, and nowadays, when we are facing, more than ever, problems like stress, or anxiety, humor has become a critical life skill that everybody should develop. There is plenty of evidence that prove this statement, some of them will be explained in this piece of work.

In fact, humor is much more powerful than we often think, and science have shown over the years, how humor is crucial in a variety of life aspects. To begin with, humor can contribute for mental health—it could even be seen as an immune system for our minds, suggests Matt Davis in an article for the World Economic Forum. That’s because humor has the power of reframing negative episodes, serving as an emotional filter that prevents triggers for people at risk of depression, especially. But not only that, the author also mentions a study from the Journal of Research in Personality, which indicates that people with affiliative and self-enhancing types of humor demonstrate better self-esteem, more control over anxiety, and better social interactions.

Moreover, humor can be deemed as an important way to enhance intelligence and memory retention. A study from a scientist of Northwestern University found that people in a positive mood have more activity in the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex, an area involved in regulating attention and problem solving. In this experiment, people who watched a comedy were better at solving puzzles than volunteers who watched a horror film, or a lecture about quantum electronics. Another article from Nature Neuroscience showed that humor activates a region of the prefrontal cortex involved in our reward processing, which is important for motivation and consolidation of memory.

Besides, humor can be important in people’s relationships. It’s no wonder that most people claim that a sense of humor is among the most important traits desired in a partner. And research corroborates that. A paper published on the Journal of Personality examined mate preference priorities, with tests conducted with almost 2,500 participants from Western and Eastern civilizations. The results highlight some fundamental traits prioritized across different cultures, like physical attractiveness, financial prospects, kindness, and humor, of course. When we look around, it’s not rare to see couples in which humor plays a big role in their relationships—it’s an attractive aspect for some, and a special bond that helps to balance the twosome.

Additionally, humor is also a key to success at work. That’s what suggests Forbes in an article about leadership. The publication brings together studies, surveys, and quotations from business literature authors, in order to prove why offices should have a little more fun. An interesting takeaway is that people are inclined to not share their sense of humor because they are afraid to offend others, they fear authorities, or they just want to be taken more seriously. But in the other hand, humor in the workplace is viewed as a way to build trust, give people enjoyment, and also a potent stress buster. To complement, a sense of humor is a character strength that is seen as a must have ability for career development, and one of the main desirable traits in managers and leaders.

As demonstrated, humor is a singular characteristic innate to humans, that has potential to improve everyone's quality of life in many ways. It can help people with mental health issues, boost self-esteem, increase cognitive skills, keep motivation levels high, improve (or create) relationships, and even guide to career progress. The power of humor is undeniable and can be seen in different situations of our daily lives. So, with all said and done, everyone should start trying to look more for the funny side of life and bring more humor to their lives. Laughing a little more can only do good.

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