Text Size
19 Jun 2023

The healing power of humour


A professor at a top United States University and research facility credits humour as being an essential ingredient for ageing, health and wellbeing.

Steven M. Sultanoff, is a clinical psychologist and professor at California’s Pepperdine University. He is also a past president of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humour, a non-profit focused on the study and use of humour. He’s dedicated more than 40 years to helping people benefit from the healing powers of humour in a research area that is clearly a laughing matter.

In an interview with international magazine TIME adding humour to your daily life, he says, can lead to a wide array of benefits. Research suggests that it sparks energy, boosts brain power, improves immunity, curbs stress, and enhances mood.

Some of those benefits stem from laughter as the physical reaction to humour. Laughter, in its own right and incarnation, delivers a full spectrum of physical, mental and spiritual benefits. Stemming from the adage that it truly is the best medicine.

Humour operates in a very different way. Professor Sultanoff says not everyone laughs when they’re amused—and you don’t have to in order to reap benefits.

“When you experience humour with somebody, you bond with them—there’s this moment of connection,” he says. “When people are bonded, they generally feel more relaxed, safer, and more comfortable.”

Making the most out of humour

Working with Professor Sultanoff Time magazine has identified the best ways to harness humour.

1. Figure out what makes you laugh
Think about what kind of humour appeals to you the most, then seek it out as often as possible. With social and conventional media, plus offerings from comedy shows, the world is rich with humour options.

2. Identify at least one funny thing a day
We’re often oblivious to what’s in front of us until we start looking for it, so set a daily intention to look for humour.

3. Relive your favourite funny moment
Professor Sultanoff advises that the next time you feel down remember something that literally made you fall down from laughter. “Visualizing a favourite funny moment is like a form of meditation. It’s convenient—you can do it anywhere—and it’s almost guaranteed to boost your mood”.

4. Train yourself to be quick-witted
We all experience situations when you wish you had been fast enough to say something funny or even put someone in their place. Quick wittedness can be developed.

Brainstorm quips, and you’ll train yourself to do them in the moment they occur. It is therapeutic to relive a not so pleasant moment and what ‘one liner’ may be changed the whole memory and experience.

5. Master one joke
Many of us innately love to make others laugh, and doing so doesn’t require great comedic skill. “I tell people to learn one simple, good joke,” Professor Sultanoff says. “It doesn’t have to be long.” Practice it, then use it in situations that need some levity.

6. Don’t force it
Striving to be funny often has the opposite effect, so don’t put extra pressure on yourself. Researchers say developing your humour portfolio is just like exercising. As with a muscle group the more you work out the stronger and more reliable they become. Think of your sense of humour in a similar way.

Feedback welcomed

We'd like to hear your thoughts on this topic

Click here to submit your feedback

Date Published: June 2023

To be reviewed: June 2026