LMHC, Certified Humor Professional, Oreo Sommelier
Introduction from Joel Bennett: It is a real, and long overdue, pleasure to introduce you to Mallori. I have known Mallori for close to seven years and have experienced her facilitation skills, knowledge, and clever integration of “healthy humor” with prevention and organizational development. Quite a combination! I recently asked Mallori to deliver her special brand of work for a client as part of OWLS’ healthy culture work. It was fantastic. People cried. People laughed. People bonded. This blog provides just a snapshot of her depth, as only a blog can. So, please learn more at https://malloridesalle.com/.
Let’s start this blog post with a joke. Shall we?
A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.
That joke may have made my therapist laugh, but others may simply have groaned at the play on words. Humor is very tricky. Never before have we needed the power of laughter. At the same time, it has become harder to tell a joke in a crowd (e.g., due to political correctness and changing as well as ambiguous norms).
So how does one decide if humor can play a role in our health and wellness—personally, socially, and in the workplace? Will humor reduce our stress or will it lead to more concerns?
Benefits of Humor
There is no doubt laughter can positively impact our body. Dozens of peer-reviewed articles demonstrate the benefits of positive, adaptive, or instrumental humor (e.g., including in the workplace, within romantic relationships, on mental health, and on well-being.)
Certain neurotransmitters are released when we guffaw. Dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin are four fan-favorites in the comedy clubs. These humor-hormones leave a crowd feeling happy, healthy, energized and in love. Uh, yes please! I’ll take two!
Humor is a resource, a method for change management, a cognitive reframing tool, a technique for self-acceptance!
What is more, laughter also decreases cortisol; the dastardly character in our lives we call “Stress” (booo-ah-ha-ha-ha-ha). [I’d like it noted that I had to sound out that last phrase several times to decide if there were 3 or 4 “ha’s” after “booo-ah”.]
So, knowing that we feel better and have less stress (booo-ah-ha-ha-ha-ha), why are people so afraid to use humor a wellness tool?
Humor has long been seen as a performance art for others. Entertainment. Frivolous. Extra. Humor has never been seen as a resource, a method for managing change, a cognitive tool for connecting with one’s self-acceptance. Well times, they are a-changing (unless we have a broken clock, that is). So, let’s look at some ways we can determine how we can use humor strategically for our health and wellness.
Decide to Use Humor: Three Prompts
Three prompts or questions can help you to decide whether humor will positively contribute to your wellness goals:
Will humor be a distraction or a strategy for action?
Humor is a great way to spark action. The neurotransmitter dopamine is connected to movement and motivation. If you use humor to give you a burst of energy; GO FOR IT!
In fact, laughter yoga is an exercise where you laugh for an extended period. Laughing for 15 minutes can burn up to 40 calories and increase your heart rate up to 20% (Vanderbilt University, 2007).
But lying on the couch, flipping through Cat memes for 45 minutes, may ‘seem’ like enjoying humor, but it is likely a distraction from work, life or your actual cat who is jealous of the felines on your phone.
Am I laughing at someone (exclusive) or laughing with them (inclusive)?
Standing around the water cooler with your co-workers laughing about how your boss can’t pronounce acai, may seem ‘fruitful’ and sweet. Laughing at someone may sometimes act as a social lubricant; however, it is a form of aggression or micro-aggression, reduces psychological safety and adds fear to any work setting. Some day YOU might be the (fruit) punchline.
Humor is best served in an all-inclusive fruit salad; where all are included (except seeds…those get stuck in your teeth).
Will I be performing (fixing/rescuing or doing a “shtick”) or inviting humor (empowering others to reframe)?
What did the blanket say to the bed? Don’t worry, I got you covered. (Awwwwh! How Sweet!).
Telling a joke is a natural way to cut tension; and yet sometimes it ends up communicating that you aren’t taking someone seriously.
Instead of performing, try inviting humor instead.
When feeling frustrated, ask yourself “How can I find the funny here?” This question can be helpful for anyone you talk to when they feel frustrated too.
Sometimes reframing a frustration as a joke can shift one’s mind (even if it is for a brief moment). You might provide a much-needed break from feeling upset. This is personal work, work that no performance can do. So, hand the microphone over to whomever owns the frustration and then join them when they share their joke.
You may not feel like humor is your strongest wellness tool, but give it a try. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Someone laughs with you?
TABLE When to Use Humor: A Quick Guide
(The More “Yes”—especially to All Three Questions—The more likely you will have a positive impact on well-being)
What is my intention?
[ ] To distract
[ ] To inspire action
What is my focus?
[ ] Laugh at
[ ] Laugh with
How do I deliver humor?
[ ] To perform
[ ] To invite or empower
Mallori DeSalle, LMHC, CHP
Mallori DeSalle is a licensed mental health counselor, certified humor professional and international Motivational Interviewing trainer. She travels the world helping people laugh, listen and learn. Focused on inviting people to turn hardships into humor, Mallori has developed the game FLIPPING FUNNY. This hilarious game helps people practice self-compassion via therapeutic humor. To find out more about FLIPPING FUNNY or how to have Mallori work with you, visit her website: www.MalloriDeSalle.com
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