Some of our most famous comedians have dealt with their mental health and addiction issues using humor. Robin Williams, Russell Brand and Jonathan Winters are just a few names that come to mind. “Humor is therapeutic in many ways,” says Yariv Hofstein, psychologist at CFI. “Laughter helps us deal with physical and mental pain. Research shows it moderates stress and relieves tension.”
Humor can also help victims of negative life circumstances gain psychological control, relieve sadness, and replace it with more adaptive thoughts. “Using humor to deal with tough life events can give people a sense of control in a situation that may feel out of control,” says Hofstein. “Therapists sometimes use humor to show patients how not to take life so seriously; life’s absurdities — which oftentimes can be funny — can help alleviate anxiety and depression.”
Family members can use humor to communicate and feel better about whatever stress is going on in the home. Teens don’t respond well to lectures — no news there — but they may listen if parents or other adults use humor to get the message through. If you can joke about your own foibles and laugh at your own mistakes, your teen may be more receptive to your message and more willing to engage. Laughter can also help build intimacy in a family, which is great if your teen shies away from sharing and being close.
“Our ability to laugh at ourselves — as therapists, patients and families — and with others is a very useful tool when dealing with ‘heavy’ issues and difficult family dynamics,” says Hofstein. “I use humor to show empathy, reduce tension and lower suspicion when helping teens and their families. Humor is part of our coping mechanisms, and tapping into it can help in the recovery or healing process.”
How do you use humor to handle stress? Do you have a favorite funny person in your life? Tell us how you use humor to overcome the not-so-funny moments in your life.