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April: The month for humor & laughter

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In the beginning, God made a man and a woman and set them on earth.
Then the man and woman looked at each other and burst out laughing.

-African myth

Maybe it’s because is National Humor Month. Maybe it’s because it has a day devoted to playing pranks on people. Maybe it’s because The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH.org) holds its annual conference during the month of April. Or, maybe it is just coincidental that two important new books related to humor and laughter were published recently.

One was Ha! The Science of When We Laugh and Why (Basic Books) by Dr. Scott Weems and the other was The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny (Simon & Schuster) by Joel Warner and Dr. Peter McGraw. Both provide valuable insights and interesting facts about matters pertaining to mirth.

In The Humor Code, for example, the authors gathered a group of employees from an advertising agency and plied them with alcohol. Then they asked the participants to come up with some funny advertisements. The results were a bunch of unfunny and offensive ads—and, in addition, a bar tab of $1,272.96. What the authors discovered was that alcohol might make things funny, but probably only to the people doing the drinking.

The other book, Ha, cited several studies that continue to document the value of humor. One such study demonstrated how humor can keep stress at bay; it was done by psychologist Arnold Cann at the University of North Carolina. He had one group view a stand-up comedy routine before watching a film depicting gruesome death scenes. Those who watched the comedy routine reported significantly less distress than those who viewed a travelogue instead.

Both books contain a lot more than can be discussed here. But each, in it’s own way, help further our understanding of the importance of humor and laughter—and to a “Jollytologist” like myself, that a good reason to rejoice.

So, even if you feel you can’t laugh, you might want to remember what columnist Ann Landers said: “Nobody says you must laugh, but a sense of humor can help you overlook the unattractive, tolerate the unpleasant, cope with the unexpected, and smile through the day.”

P.S.- If you want to read even more about the benefits of humor, I guess I should put a plug in here for my book, which was published 25-years-ago and is now a classic in the therapeutic humor field—The Healing Power of Humor: Techniques for Getting through Loss, Setbacks, Upsets, Disappointments, Difficulties, Trials, Tribulations, and All That Not-So-Funny Stuff.

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