Happiness How to Use Humor to Cope With Stress By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD Twitter Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on June 12, 2022 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Adah Chung Fact checked by Adah Chung LinkedIn Adah Chung is a fact checker, writer, researcher, and occupational therapist. Learn about our editorial process Print Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents How Humor Helps Develop Your Sense of Humor More Quick-Response Stress Strategies Frequently Asked Questions Although there's no way to eliminate life's challenges completely, using humor to cope with stress can be a healthy, effective habit. It's not difficult, given the absurdities that pepper the average day. It just requires a bit of practice in shifting your perspective. How Humor Helps A sense of humor can build resilience to stress and improve your overall physical and emotional health. It can also help you: Bond with others Look at things in a different way Normalize your experience Keep your relationships strong Maintain good health Retain and share information Help increase work satisfaction Laughter therapy actually has been shown to reduce the physiological markers of stress and can be an effective adjunct to pharmacological treatment. In general, recent research suggests that laughter can enhance overall quality of life. The Benefits of Making Fun of Yourself Develop Your Sense of Humor You can cultivate your sense of humor in a few easy ways—and the more often you practice them, the more automatic they'll become. Start With a Smile Even just faking a smile can increase happiness—and not just the appearance of it. This is because the act of smiling, whether real or fake, causes your body to release feel-good chemicals known as endorphins. Plus, a fake smile tends to lead to a genuine one, helping laughter come more easily and, in turn, quelling stress more readily. 10 Big Benefits of Smiling Take a Step Back When you’re in the middle of a difficult situation, it can seem overwhelming. Taking a step back, however, and viewing your situation as an objective observer can help you find the absurdity in it. This is called reframing—and it works. Try having a "most annoying boss" contest with your friends, or counting how many times the same frustrating event happens in a day. ("I was cut off in traffic seven times today—I’m almost up to 10.") This works well for predictable or repetitive annoying situations that you can’t control. In this way, you can come to view them in all their ridiculousness instead of letting them unnerve you. Value the Extremes If your situation seems ridiculously frustrating, recognize the potential humor in just how ridiculously frustrating and annoying it is. In your imagination, take the situation to an extreme that becomes even more ridiculous until you find yourself amused. For example, while waiting in a long line, imagine that hours pass, then days, then years. Visualize loved ones visiting an elderly you or attending your child's birthday party right there as you're standing in line years later. Imagining this absurdity can help you find the humor in your circumstances. Recruit Funny Friends Social support is a crucial part of stress management. Find a friend or group of friends with whom you can share your frustrations and challenges, and laugh about them in the process. Even when your friends are not there, you can lighten your mood by thinking about the retelling that will come later. 6 Friendship Benefits: Why It's Important to Stay Close to Your Friends Find Funny Entertainment Humorous sitcoms, memes, and online videos are popular in part because they often push universally frustrating situations a little further to show their silly sides. Such interpretations of life can help you maintain a lighthearted attitude and find your own style of seeing the world. Look for content that skillfully susses out the humor in annoying, upsetting, or otherwise unpleasant events. How to Face Uncomfortable Emotions With Comedian Paul Gilmartin More Quick-Response Stress Strategies Laughter yoga, which combines laughter and intentional yogic breathing (pranayama), is a great way to release stress and put more giggles into your day. If this type of class is not available to you, look for other types of yoga and relaxation strategies (meditation, tai chi, deep breathing) to minimize stress so you can build your resilience and your sense of humor. What Coping Strategies Can Help Manage Stress? A Word From Verywell Humor is often helpful in managing stress, but not always. If you experience chronic stress or frequent acute stress, your overall health depends on finding coping strategies that work for you. Frequently Asked Questions How do you handle a stressful situation at work with humor? Finding the absurdity is the key. For example, when you're faced with a seemingly impossible deadline, imagine all the people involved moving as if they're in a movie that's been fast-forwarded Why do people use humor as a coping mechanism? Many people use humor to deal with stress simply because it works. And with practice, you can find the humor in almost any situation, defusing its ability to stress you out. 7 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Cann A, Collette C. Sense of humor, stable affect, and psychological well-being. Europe’s Journal of Psychology. 2014;10(3):464-479. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2021.667821 Bartzik M, Bentrup A, Hill S, et al. Care for joy: evaluation of a humor intervention and its effects on stress, flow experience, work enjoyment, and meaningfulness of work. Front Public Health. 2021;9:667821. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2021.667821 Laughter therapy: A humor-induced hormonal intervention to reduce stress and anxiety. Current Research in Physiology. 2021;4:135-138. doi:10.1016/j.crphys.2021.04.002 Heidari M, Ghodusi Borujeni M, Rezaei P, Kabirian Abyaneh S, Heidari K. Effect of laughter therapy on depression and quality of life of the elderly living in nursing homes. Malays J Med Sci. 2020;27(4):119-129. doi:10.21315/mjms2020.27.4.11 Kraft TL, Pressman SD. Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response. Psychol Sci. 2012;23(11):1372-1378. doi:10.1177/0956797612445312 Baqutayan S. Stress and Social Support. Indian J Psychol Med. 2011;33(1):29-34. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.85392 Tanaka A, Tokuda N, Ichihara K. Psychological and physiological effects of laughter yoga sessions in Japan: A pilot study. Nurs Health Sci. 2018;20(3):304-312. doi:10.1111/nhs.12562 By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Happiness Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.