Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Humour

humour haiku

I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person. Audrey Hepburn

When was the last time you laughed – I mean really laughed, until your ribcage and cheeks hurt?

To paraphrase the stickers/plaques found in many a workplace; it’s not essential to have a sense of humour to enjoy life… actually, it is. I agree with Roger Moore: If you don’t have humour, then you may as well nail the coffin lid down now.

I’ve always enjoyed a good chortle – who doesn’t? The day my son first smiled (properly) at me, I resolved to make him laugh every day, a custom I’ve more or less kept going for twenty-one years. It has made our relationship all the more special (even if he thinks I’m ever so slightly eccentric).

Laughter is the best medicine – I know that it helped me to recover from trauma. Looking for humour wherever I could find it, be that in books, on television, being daft with family and friends, I was able to bear the fallout that followed the most hideous ordeal of my life.

Even during the six weeks that I was a missing person, unsure whether or not I would ever see my family, or another day, again, there were the occasional lighter moments (relatively speaking), proving Jorge Garcia’s claim that: Mixing humour and harsh reality is a very human behaviour, it’s the way people stay sane in their daily lives. Or does it exemplify a line from Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch: We who think we’re about to die will laugh at anything?

It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that a number of health benefits are associated with having a good laugh:

  • Physical: boosting your immune system; decreasing stress hormones; reducing pain; relaxing muscles; staving off heart disease.
  • Mental: relieving anxiety and fear; reducing stress; improving resilience; lightening mood; cultivating vitality.
  • Social: making us more attractive; helping to dissolve conflict; improving relationships; supporting teamwork and group bonding.

Looking back over my life, the people I recall with the most fondness are the ones who always brought a smile to my face.

The physical act of smiling, even when you haven’t got anything in particular to smile about, has the psychological effect of lifting your spirits – try it and see.

There was a verse in the window of the reception area of my son’s primary school which I’ve never forgotten:


I always smile back if someone smiles at me. Although I have to say that smiling isn’t as infectious as the verse insists; on a number of occasions I’ve smiled at strangers in the street and received a blank stare in response. Some people have no sense of humour! Or should that be some people have an ego problem? If you can’t laugh at yourself then your ego is more than likely a little over-sensitive, if not downright neurotic. The remedy for this is to undertake the work necessary to heal your psyche.

I don’t find the kind of humour that makes fun of people particularly amusing. To me that’s a sign of the comedian’s own ego problem; needing to get a laugh at someone’s expense. It can be cruel and it’s certainly unnecessary. A comic like Peter Kay is an example of an entertainer who is essentially, inherently, funny. His brilliant observations playfully highlight people’s idiosyncrasies, as well as the absurdities of life itself; there’s no attempt to humiliate anyone.

Being able to find the humour in situations helps you to keep a balanced perspective. I’m not sure I’d be where I am now if it weren’t for my sense of humour. Rufus Wainwright has said: There’s no life without humour. It can make the wonderful moments of life truly glorious, and it can make tragic moments bearable.

Can you see the funny side?