Humor Rx for Alleviating Stress in the 21st Century

by Larry Wilde

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Humor Prescription for relieving stress

America's best-selling humorist
offers practical tips on using humor
to wipe out stress.

     One night at dinner, Morgan said to his wife, "I have to admit I'm feeling much better since my operation, but I can't figure out why I got this big bump on my head."
     "Oh, that!" said his spouse. "In the middle of your operation they suddenly ran out of ether."

Stress seems to be part of everybody's life. The United Nations International Labor Organization recently issued a report that states, "Stress has become one of the most serious health issues of our times."

There are many ways to contend with stress -- everything from jogging and paddle ball to biofeedback, aerobics and herbal tea. All these methods work to some extent but they take up precious time. The quickest, most effective way to beat stress is literally to laugh it off.

      "What's the idea of overdrawing your checking account?"
      "Oh, it's all right, dear. I just sent them a check to cover the amount I overdrew."

Why use humor in daily life? The answer is simple.

You get immediate results. It takes no special talent or ability, no physical prowess or skill, you aren't required to have a masters degree or a license, it makes you feel good, it's fun, fat-free and you don't need batteries.

A good laugh may be good for the heart.

A team of Maryland medical researchers found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in humorous situations than those with healthy hearts.

"The old saying that laughter is the best medicine definitely appears to be true when it comes to protecting your heart," says Michael Miller, director of the Center of Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The healthful benefits of laughter are cause for great celebration among psychologists. They now recognize the therapeutic value of humor in the workplace and have begun to prescribe it for their patients.

Daniel Goleman, writing in The New York Times, states that "humor can aid problem-solving as well as contribute to creativity in the business environment."

The Times article quotes David Abramis, a psychologist in the School of Business Administration at California State University (Long Beach) on his survey of 382 people from a wide variety of workplaces. Abramis found that "those who felt their work was fun performed better and got along better with co-workers than did those who were satisfied with their jobs but did not see them as fun."

The knowledge that it is possible to cope more easily with stress by emphasizing humor has already had a profound effect on the international business community.

Now companies are profiting from lessons in laughter. Corporations are hiring humor consultants for training sessions to help execs loosen up, so they can take their work seriously without taking themselves too seriously.

Mark H. McCormick, the premier sports business manager and author of What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School, writes "Laughter is the most potent, constructive force for diffusing business tension. If you can point out what is humorous or absurd about a situation or confrontation, you will be guaranteed the upper hand."

Important meetings, presentations or job interviews can become highly stressful confrontations. Loosening up with a couple of chuckles beforehand sharpens your concentration and pleasantly prepares you for a positive and successful approach.

"Laughter is the best way to start a meeting," states McCormick. "You don't need to have them falling in the aisles. But a mildly pleasant remark at the outset will create the right atmosphere for everything that follows."

      The Chairman of the Board of Directors of a Chicago charity called the monthly meeting to order. "I have rather a stressful order of business," he announced. "We're looking for a treasurer."
      "But we appointed a treasurer just six months ago."
      "Yes," said the Chairman. "That's the treasurer we're looking for."

Using humor to relieve stress is simple -- the benefits are simply wonderful. Follow these easy steps and you'll be on your way to defusing anxiety and frustration.


Keep a book of jokes or cartoons handy. If it makes good sense to keep a first-aid kit for medical emergencies why not a mirth-kit to deal with stressful situations?

Ten minutes before a meeting or potentially stressful situation read some funny stories. A smile or chuckle will relax and better prepare you for a confrontation. A good laugh makes you feel good and allows you to think more clearly and quickly.

Humor makes you more efficient -- it allows you to function better.


Dr. Meyer Friedman in his book, Treating Type A Behavior and Your Heart, points out that being able to laugh at yourself is healthy.

Dr. Friedman's research in heart disease leads him to conclude: "The person most effectively protecting himself against the continued progress of coronary artery disease is the person willing to see himself and his affairs as ludicrously unimportant in the planetary scheme of things."

When you make fun of yourself it takes the sting out of what other people say.

It is not necessary to constantly put yourself down in the workplace, but self-deprecating humor shows that you're human. It reveals that you are so self-assured, you can readily poke fun at yourself. And guess what? People like you more!

Humor keeps you from taking yourself too seriously and makes dealing with others easier.


Find out what makes you laugh and nurture it. Each of us has an individual sense of humor. There are many life experiences we can look back on and laugh about uproariously. Childhood incidents, school situations, even marriage mishaps.

Remember the embarrassing moments that were so painful when they happened but are funny now when you think about them.

The next step in developing your funny file is to put together a humor library. Gather up your favorite cartoons, comedy records, joke books, funny video films -- anything that will bring a smile to your lips. Bookmark your favorite humorous websites. (See below for links to some amusing Websites.)

Marsha Sinetar, organizational psychologist and author of Do What You Love, mentions an executive who has a file folder reserved for cartoons, jokes and other humorous anecdotes.

"I call this my mental health file," he explains. "When I'm down in the dumps, bored, uninspired, I flip through this folder. I'm always amazed at how a few laughs pick me up and change my perspective. It's interesting how a humor file can reach your inner spirit and remind you that the world's not such a bad place after all."

Keeping your own humor collection provides comic relief when you need it most.

Medical science has made us aware that there is now another way to cope with stress. People who may need a cure for one of the most depressing and debilitating maladies of our times can now access the newest and best prescription: Humor.

Copyright © 2006 by Larry Wilde

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