Garfield is having a typical cartoon conversation with his nerdy owner Jon.• Jon is pondering whether or not he has lived any former lives.• Garfield expresses serious doubts about the prospect of Jon’s reincarnation because, he points out, “You’re not even living this life.”
Are you alive? One way to test that is to look at your humor quotient. How often do you laugh each day? How often do you make others laugh? Young children laugh hundreds of times a day. The older we get, the less we laugh • at least that’s the trend. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Asking ourselves “Am I Humorous?” can expose countless opportunities for laughter in our personal and professional lives.
Taking advantage of these opportunities has proven therapeutic value. Humor improves health • not only physical health but the health of social systems as well. There’s simply no situation that cannot be improved by a good sense of humor.
Loretta LaRoche, one of America’s leading humorists, suggests that the following attitudes are humor killers: living in the past or in the future, being critical, demanding, or overextended, having rigid rules, standards, or beliefs, and lacking connection to loving family, friends, and inner wisdom. Does any of that sound like you? Then you’re not as happy as you can be.
Most of us experience that condition, at least from time to time, since humor killers abound in our society. People work too hard, too fast, too long, and too much. What’s a person to do? It may surprise you to learn that LaRoche does not recommend waiting for the elimination of humor killers before you start laughing. This is not a, “Which came first, chicken or egg?” conundrum. Humor is both the first step and the final destination. There’s no other way to get there from here. One simply has to lighten up and take things less seriously.
Unfortunately, many people fall flat on their face while trying to be funny. It is never appropriate to demean individuals or groups of people in order to get a laugh, particularly in the workplace or other professional contexts. Religion, politics, and morality pose the greatest risk, along with racial, gender, and cultural stereotypes. The old advice still applies: if you can’t say something nice about someone (or to someone), don’t say anything at all. Avoid sarcasm and negativity.
You can improve your humor quotient by following these simple guidelines. First, be willing to poke fun at yourself. This will free you and others up to be less intense and uptight. Second, avoid what LaRoche calls “catastrophizing.” In other words, saying, “Oh, no! We’re in real trouble here!” in response to every mistake or crisis. Third, share what Kathleen Conroy, a free-lance writer based in Victoria, British Columbia, calls “the funny stuff.” Don’t keep the humorous stories and cartoons that come your way to yourself. Pass them along. Fourth, use humor intentionally to keep situations from overheating. Humor is a social lubricant that can assist with project management, problem solving, and human resources. Arrange for special humor events and contests, whether at work or home.
I am always struck when people, especially children, smile and laugh under the most dire of circumstances. Whatever your circumstances may be, humor has the ability to improve them exponentially. If you’re not laughing, or if you’re not laughing enough, it’s time to start. “Am I Humorous?” differs from “Am I Happy?” (LifeTrek Provision #152) in that humor sweetens both the best and the worst of times. Without humor you’ll end up living in a harsh world, too serious to bear.
That said, I thought you might enjoy the postcard that a college sophomore, who had spent most of the school year in one kind of trouble or another, received from his parents who were vacationing in Greece:• “Dear Son, we are now standing high on a cliff from which the ancient Spartan women once hurled their defective children to the rocks below.• Wish you were here. Love. Mom & Dad.” 🙂
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC