The Link Between Happiness and a Sense of Humor

The Link Between Happiness and a Sense of Humor

via the Atlantic by Arthur C Brooks

When I die, I want to go peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming in terror, like the passengers on his bus. If you laughed at that joke, it is because three things happened in your brain in lightning-fast succession. First, you detected an incongruity: You imagined my grandfather lying peacefully in bed, but then you realized he was actually driving a bus. Second, you resolved the incongruity: My grandfather was asleep at the wheel. Third, the parahippocampal gyrus region of your brain helped you realize I wasn’t being serious, so you felt amusement. And all of that gave you a little bit of joy.

I realize that after that analysis, you’re probably not laughing anymore. “Humor can be dissected, as a frog can,” according to the writer E. B. White, “but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.” Fair enough. Humor is a serious business for happiness, however, and cultivating the skill of finding humor in life, even during the darkest times, can be the secret to keeping us from despair.


Researchers have theorized that a sense of humor is made up of six basic variables: the cognitive ability to create or understand jokes, an appreciation and enjoyment of jokes, behavior patterns of joking and laughing, cheerful or humorous temperament, a bemused attitude about life, and a strategy of using humor in the face of adversity. A sense of humor, then, can mean either being funny or enjoying funny things…

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