Why Humor is a Secret Weapon for De-Stressing

Plus, three ways you can tap into humor in your daily life.

Rawpixel // Getty Images
Rawpixel // Getty Images

In her book, Humor Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life, Jennifer Aaker, Ph.D., behavioral scientist, chaired professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and member of Thrive’s Scientific Advisory Board, explains, “Joy is not a happy accident, but a choice we make. It’s about being more generous with your laughter and finding delightful moments in the day.” She adds, “When you don’t take yourself too seriously, you laugh effortlessly. And that is when joy flows.” 

In this video, Jennifer Aaker and Stanford lecturer Naomi Bagdonas talk about the power of humor, and how it can improve our well-being and help us stay resilient. Using behavioral science and tools from the world of comedy, Aaker and Bagdonas explain how we can use humor to infuse joy into our everyday lives, while improving our relationships and deepening our connection with the world around us. 

Here are their three tips for tapping into humor:

1. Do a humor audit. 

For one week, write down all of the moments each day when you laughed, or when you made someone else laugh. You can’t activate humor unless you first understand where it’s missing. It will also help you understand your own humor style, and understand how to bring more of it into your life. 

2. Be more generous with your laughter. 

Laugh or smile whenever you have the opportunity! When we laugh, our brains release a cocktail of hormones that suppress the stress hormone cortisol and instead release dopamine and oxytocin. You’ll feel more joyful when you allow yourself to smile throughout the day.

3. Reminisce about moments of shared laughter.

Laughter can bring us together. Laughter triggers the release of oxytocin, also known as the “trust hormone,” because of the way it prompts our brains to create emotional bonds. Joy and humor help us grow our bonds and create a safe space to deepen our relationships. So next time you have a conversation with a friend, partner, or co-worker, take a moment to laugh about a funny experience you shared.

“Let’s ‘plan our joy’ and not just our work! In fact, I now look at my days not just in terms of how effective I was but how joyful!” 

—Arianna Huffington, Thrive Founder and CEO 

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