January 31, 2018
Riddle: What is clear on the outside and gray on the inside? Read on for the answer! When people don’t play or laugh, it is easy to become overly serious and emotionally distraught. Depression has many characteristics including the inability to have fun, or moving in a sluggish manner. Many men exhibit their depression through anger, rage, violence, and irritability. Manifestations of emotionally and psychologically distraught persons include abuse, anger, and depression. Even thoughts of suicide and death are associated with depression. While it may seem obvious, and there are many causes and symptoms of depression, people with depression are often missing humor, playfulness, and joy in their life. Humor, jocularity, and wit are associated with resilience and well-being.
Humor, when it is associated with laughter creates changes in a person’s physiology, psychology, and social interactions. When individuals laugh their bodies change. Muscles relax, breathing changes; the brain releases endorphins, which is the human body’s way of releasing natural pain killers. Laughter kills pain! Laughter and humor are also linked with increased attention spans, increased ability to comprehend, and ability to recall important events. People that can find humor in their existence and abilities have the ability to take charge of their own lives.
Humor is important because humor connects a person to their sense of self. People can “gain an ‘aha’ experience from their ‘ha-ha’ perspective” (Gladding, 2016, p. 179). Humor can allow the client to gain perspective and see a situation from a distance and in a new light.
Researchers have found that humor helps ease people in social situations. Couples who share similar types of humor find an increased attraction to each other. Co-workers who express suitable and respectful humor are often viewed more positively. Research suggests that people who enjoy wittiness have an increased ability to problem-solve. Finally, humor can be used to delve into difficult situation, or diffuse anger and depression.
In short, humor makes life easier. Humor allows a person to release pent-up emotions. Mature humor allows individuals to look directly at what is painful, and not be overwhelmed.
A word of caution, humor may not be heard or understood in the same manner as it is intended. “Humor requires the same delicacy as building a house of cards - timing is everything” (Vaillant, G. E., & Vaillant, C. O., 2009, p. 704).
My wish for you is to be a healthy person who is full of energy and vitality that is based on an active engagement with the world. Humor brings out the vigor and creativity in life.
Like an elephant in a sandwich bag (riddle answer!), seeing through life’s difficulties to find the humor in a situation may be a step out of depression.
Questions for Reflection:
- When was the last time that I laughed wantonly?
- What movies, comics, pictures, or poetry brings me joy and laughter?
- How might I be more playful and humorous?
R. David Johns has a PhD in Counseling Education and Supervision, and a Master’s Degree in Counseling. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC) in the state of Colorado. He works with people to better incorporate humor into their life in order to reduce the pain of depression. For an appointment call 303-642-6636 or email at [email protected]
Gladding, S. T. (2016). The creative arts in counseling (5th ed.). Alexandria, VA: American
Vaillant, G. E., & Vaillant, C. O. (2009). Normality and mental health. In B. J. Sadock, V. A.
Sadock, & P. Ruiz (Eds.). Kaplan & Sadock’s comprehensive textbook of psychiatry (9th ed.). (pp. 691-706). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.