Psychological science has been around for more than a century.
But it’s only recently that the field has become a topic of discussion on social media, and with it, the role of humour.
For some, the term “humour” is synonymous with sarcasm and satire.
And for others, it is the art of self-deprecation.
What are the benefits of humour?
According to psychologist Dr Peter Reardon from the University of Queensland, humour is useful in two main ways.
First, it helps us “understand ourselves and the world around us”.
“Humour is a way of thinking about how we’re going to feel about ourselves, what our feelings are, and whether or not we’re being genuine,” he said.
“It’s a way for us to think about ourselves in a way that’s not always so binary or binary and binary-y.”
“Second, humour helps us to cope with feelings of distress or sadness and to engage in a sense of humour,” Dr Reardon said.
This can help us to make sense of our experience and to recognise when we’re not doing what we should be doing.
“If we don’t do what we’re supposed to be doing, we can feel that we’re having a bad day or feeling depressed, or we’re feeling anxious and stressed,” Dr. Reardon explained.
In a recent study, Dr. John Gormley from the Griffith University asked participants to complete a questionnaire in which they were asked to list all the ways they experienced negative emotions.
Participants were then given a questionnaire that asked them to describe how they responded to each of the emotions in the questionnaire.
The researchers then looked at the responses of the participants and compared the results to how they reported feeling at the time.
They found that the participants who reported experiencing positive emotions (those that were positive for them) tended to be more humorous than the ones who reported negative emotions (negative for them).
“The more humour there was in their responses, the more positive they were,” Dr Gormly said.
A good example of humour in a positive way?
In his study, Mr Reardon also looked at humour in relation to mental health.
“The way that humour can help people to cope and deal with negative emotions is that it helps them to be honest and to have the courage to tell the truth,” he explained.
“People are able to be so open and open-minded and truthful when they have this kind of humour around them.”
Dr Re, Dr G and Mr Re are among a number of psychologists who have used humour to help people cope with difficult situations.
“There are a lot of examples of humour that can help with mental health,” Dr John Gomble said.
Dr Re’s research has found that when participants in a humour study are given a series of positive responses, they are more likely to think positive thoughts and to believe that they are in a good place.
This is because the participants are more confident that they can control the negative emotions, and that they have the strength to cope.
“Humorous self-reflection can help to reduce the negative feelings and to allow people to look at themselves and their situation in a different way,” Dr Graham Gormsey, a psychiatrist and the director of the Australian Centre for Mindfulness in Psychology at the University, said.
In the study, participants were given a short and long form questionnaire to complete, and Dr Re and Dr G were also asked to assess how well they answered questions such as, “When was the last time you laughed?” and “How many times do you think about yourself in negative terms?”
Participants were also given a list of positive and negative words to use in their self-reports.
“These negative words are actually positive, and they’re used to describe a positive experience,” Dr Tessa Williams from the Centre for Psycholinguistic Research at the Australian National University, told News.au.
“They are often positive because they’re describing something positive that’s happening, so it helps to keep you in the positive.”
“But they’re also used to reflect something negative, so they’re being used to remind us that there’s something wrong.”
Dr Williams also told News 8 that humour plays an important role in helping people cope in stressful situations.
Dr John Reardon and Dr John Graham Gombler from the Department of Psychology at Griffith University, in Brisbane, study how humour can be used to help with negative feelings.
Source: Supplied/ABC News (Originally published February 22, 2019)