How can the humor impact your wellbeing?

Updated: Sep 26

There are four ways in which people use humour while confronting stressful situations; Affiliative humor and self-enhancing humour are two positive humor styles.

Affiliative humor is a cheerful one to connect with others and enhance relationships by means of witty and amusing banter. Whereas, self-enhancing humor supports the self by finding humorous or positive aspects in daily events. Both, self-enhancing and affiliative humor are typically associated with enhanced psychological well-being.

On the other hand, there exists aggressive as well as self-defeating humour. Aggressive humor consists of expressing humor to enhance the self by ridiculing others or putting them down, while self-defeating humor is used to amuse and connect with others by means of detracting from the self and making oneself the butt of jokes. According to Caird & Martin, 2014, self-defeating humor is associated with psychological distress and aggressive humor that shows weak and inconsistent relations to psychological outcomes.


Moreover, a meta-analysis by Schneider, Voracek & Tran, in 2018 showed that affiliative and self-enhancing humor are correlated positively with mental health while the self-defeating humor is correlated negatively with it. According to the meta-analysis the aggressive humor is largely unrelated to mental health.

There exist questions regarding the validity of the Humor Styles Questionnaire. That is because the items of the questionnaire are supposed to confound different types of humor content with the context in which humor production occurs. However, the Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ) remains the most precise instrument up to this date for examining different humor motivations and uses, and would allow greater confidence in the existing body of evidence relating individual humor styles with well-being.


Cognitive reappraisal or the ability to reframe negative events in a positive light, is one mechanism that links well-being and humor styles. This approach allows individuals to shift their perspective from viewing stressors as negative threats to viewing them as positive or less negative challenges. Several recent studies have shown that humor use is associated with greater reappraisal of negative events (Ojeda & Kiang, 2014; Fritz et al., 2017), including a positive reappraisal of both acute laboratory stressors and real-life chronic stressors.


People may minimize the negative emotional impact, even if they are unable to change anything about the stressor itself, by considering the importance of the stressor in the whole scheme of life. Moreover, identifying positive outcomes or “silver linings” from the negative event, such as improved attention to health or safety habits, enhanced appreciation of one's relationships, etc., may facilitate a sense of control over the event or its aftermath.


Source: Why are humor styles associated with well-being, and does social competence matter? Examining relations to psychological and physical well-being, reappraisal, and social support
H.L. Fritz 2020
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