Laughing at Misfortune

Can you look back on misfortunes or challenges in your past and laugh about it? Ok, well that’s pretty easy. How about finding the humour in your present difficulties? That’s a lot harder, but it’s also healthier.

People that can find humour in their problems, who can laugh at themselves and who don’t take themselves too seriously are more resilient.

Even research going back forty years showed soldiers returning from Vietnam had lower rates of PTSD when they were able to laugh when facing tragedy and trauma. Sometimes referred to as “black comedy”, this type of humour is common among police, soldiers, nurses and other emergency workers. Having the ability to joke about tragic issues such as death seems inappropriate on the surface, but studies have shown that it is psychologically protective. Of course we have to remember there is “a time and a place”, and the need to be sensitive to victims, however, the joking itself is not a bad thing.

When I was team leader for a police tactical unit in Northern Ontario, we had a guy that could always crack us up. No matter how cold and wet and tired we were, no matter how miserable the situation was, Ryan could always find something funny about it. He was relentless with the jokes. Although it didn’t seem like a critical skill in those emergency situations, I considered him a critical piece. Why? Because I knew that no matter how bad things got, morale wouldn’t spiral downwards, and team members wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the demanding situation because he would have them laughing.

Finding humour in difficulties helps to keep things in perspective. Also, similar to exercise, when we laugh our brains release feel-good biochemicals.

Laughing feels good and it’s good for you. What has you stressed, frustrated, angry, or overwhelmed? What can you find right now that is funny about it? Like I said at the start, it’s hard, but it works.