Humor /ˈ(h)yo͞omər/, defined as the quality of being amusing or comic, a mood or state of mind.
In the midst of a global pandemic, social distancing, unemployment rates sky-rocketing, school canceled for the rest of the year – you might feel that it may be “too soon” to find silver lining. But just when is it too soon to laugh in troubling times?
In our latest episode of What The Func?! Podcast, our hosts Laura Schein, Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach (FMCHC), and Clayton Farris, investigate this by asking humor experts in the industry. One expert in particular they speak with Professor Leo Kant, professor and researcher at University of Bergen, in Norway, who along with his partner, Professor Elisabeth Norman researched the Benign Violation Theory (BVT). A theory that explores “sweet spot” when something is perceived as humorous by violating an expectation to be funny - specifying how psychological distance plays a central role in determining whether a certain event, joke, or other stimulus is perceived as benign or malign.
The benefits of laughter, such as endorphins release, forming of social bonds, assisting in brain connectivity, heart health and depression have been studies for years. However, when time are tough, it seems like we are made to feel bad for finding humor in things or laughing while dealing with a situation.
Comedy in a Crisis?
Studies have found laughing to be a positive coping mechanism of psychological recovery. Though it is a defense mechanism to keep an individual from feeling the pain associated with the trigger, it has been found to actually reduce the amount of suffering experienced. Being able to laugh during trouble times in our lives does not cause us to ignore them, but instead seems to prepare us to endure them.
Humor as a VIA Character Strength and laughter, is a powerful means by which we can encourage ourselves and others. That when confronted with setbacks, adversity, trauma, or terrible news, even if it may seem socially inappropriate, we should reach toward humor. Finding a light during whatever circumstances make us afraid, uneasy or uncomfortable. By using Positive Psychology principals to focus away from troubling times, and focusing on simply laughing and focusing on why we think it is so funny, we may be able to change perspective of our situation and ease the stress, suffering, and sadness. So, it’s okay, you can laugh!
DiSalvo, David. “Six Science-Based Reasons Why Laughter Is The Best Medicine.” Forbes Forbes Magazine, 5 June 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2017/06/05/six-science-based-reasons-why-laughter-is-the-best-medicine/#1a2a7f0d7f04.
The Functional Medicine Coaching Academy. “What The Func?!: EPISODE 6 - COMEDY IN A CRISIS on Apple Podcasts.” Apple Podcasts, 19 Apr. 2020, www.podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-6-comedy-in-a-crisis/id1498971078?i=1000472022553.
Kant, Leo, and Elisabeth Norman. “You Must Be Joking! Benign Violations, Power Asymmetry, and Humor in a Broader Social Context.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 28 May 2019, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01380/full.
Manninen, Sandra, et al. “Social Laughter Triggers Endogenous Opioid Release in Humans.” Journal of Neuroscience, Society for Neuroscience, 21 June 2017, www.jneurosci.org/content/37/25/6125.
“Why We Laugh.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 23 Jan. 2011, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-in-world/201101/why-we-laugh.