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Humor in the Face of Adversity

People laughing

Recently someone shared the following on my Facebook page: "Can we all agree that in 2015 not a single person got the answer correct to "Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?" It was definitely good for a chuckle, and got me thinking about the importance of humor and connection in these crazy times. It seems that in 2020 we have literally lurched from one crisis to another. Massive wildfires, hurricanes, COVID-19, social upheaval, etc. has deeply impacted all of us, not just those who have been directly affected by any one of these traumas. So, where does humor fit in?

Recent studies have shown that humor is an excellent way of coping with stress and adversity. Humor can help make our struggles seem more manageable, help us to overcome fear, trigger our creativity, let us take ourselves less seriously, and relieve potentially awkward social interactions. In addition, most studies find humor to be a highly sought after trait in partners and friends.

In addition to humor, laughter has been shown to reduce pain, strengthen immune function, and decrease stress - who can resist a good belly laugh? Shared laughter can help connect us and strengthen our relationships. If done well, humor can have a significant positive effect on our lives. However, on the flip side, failed humor can be very destructive and hurtful. Being laughed at or 'not in on the joke', is not generally positive for a relationship.

It seems that our ancient ancestors, who knew a thing or two about crisis and hardship, also knew the value of a good laugh. Recorded jokes and riddles have been documented in Ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt and Samaria as far back as 1900 BC! In 2008, British historians tracked down the world's oldest book of jokes written in ancient Greece circa 300 - 400 AD. The benefits of laughter are also mentioned in the Old Testament.

This is not to trivialize the stress and hardships that many people are facing. On the contrary, humility and humor remind us of our shared humanity. So, feel free to share those funny cat videos and memes, because sometimes "laughter is the best medicine!"

Rhonda Hamlin, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a Clinical Associate with Family Guidance Centers in our Powhatan office. She can be reached at 804-743-0960 or can be emailed at


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