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 with new practices of social distancing, unemployment rates sky-rocketing, and the school year being canceled– you might feel that it may be “too soon” to find the 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 the University of Bergen, in Norway, who along with his partner, Professor Elisabeth Norman, researched the Benign Violation Theory (BVT). The Benign Violation Theory 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 studied for years. However, when time are tough, it seems like we are conditioned to feel bad for finding humor in things or laughing while dealing with a tough 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 is a VIA Character Strength and laughter is a powerful means by which we can encourage ourselves and others to find joy in even the hardest situations. That when confronted with setbacks, adversity, trauma, or terrible news, even if it may seem socially inappropriate, we should reach toward humor. By doing this we can find light in 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 the perspective of our situation and ease the stress, suffering, and sadness. So, it’s okay, laugh it off!
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.