Humor is Hope’s Best Friend


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Humor Increases Hope

A 2005 study conducted on 200 test subjects by David H. Rosen, found that humor increases a person’s ability to hope.

Dr. Rosen found that humor obstructs negative thoughts and replaces them with positive ones.  He says that humor shifts our automatic behavioral responses away from the negative tracks and puts us on a more creative path of thought and action.

Another study interviewed terminally ill adults, aged 32 to 77 years who had been given a devastating prognosis of six months to live, at maximum.

“Of these, 85% indicated that humor would be useful at this time in their illness, but only 14% described any humor in their lives.  More than half (64%) felt that humor enabled them to alter their perceptions of situations that would otherwise be overwhelming. Finally, 85% of participants described humor as empowering ‘hope,’ which was important in enabling them to face realities of everyday existence.” Rosen Study

The occasional use of humor has also recently been found to be among the ten highest rated “hope-giving” behaviors demonstrated by oncologists, as ranked by 126 patients with metastatic cancer.” Communicating with Realism and Hope

Ruts and Routes

The Via Domitia, with traces of Roman chariot tracks is the oldest Roman road in Gaul, and one of the oldest Roman roads anywhere. It was constructed in 118 BC/ By Ramessos

The Via Domitia, with traces of Roman chariot tracks is the oldest Roman road in Gaul, and one of the oldest Roman roads anywhere. It was constructed in 118 BC/ By Ramessos

Persistent, unhelpful thinking carves a path to a place we don’t want to go.  With time and repetition, the grooves created from habitual negative thinking etch deeply into our lives to sculpt a route to an unwanted result — like the chariot tracks that eroded the paving stones on the Via Domitia — and forced a specific direction and experience upon the travelers on the ancient road.

Once ruts are established they may be used by generations of people who no longer remember the reason why they exist or who made them.

There’s a classic story about a newlywed preparing a roast for dinner.  Before placing the meat into the oven, the ends are carefully removed and thrown away.  “Why do you cut the ends off of the roast?” the husband asks — “They’re the best part.”  The wife answers: “That’s the way my mother always made it and it’s delicious.”

Weeks later, the couple visits her mother and grandmother.  This time the granddaughter asks her mother why she always removed the ends from the roast.  Her mother turns to the grandmother and asks the same thing.  Grandmother responds: “I cut the ends so that it will fit into the pan.”

A Whole Lot of Thinking Going On

Psychology Today” estimates that we have between 25,000 to 50,000 thoughts each day.  If we spend a considerable amount of our day as news junkies or have a tendency to routinely view events in a less than positive way – we can be assured that a lot of our daily thoughts are going to be negative or fearful.

A Fearful Thought Never Asks for a Table for One

Negative, fearful or worrying thoughts come in clusters.  They’re like the invited guest who shows up at your party with 100 of their closest friends.  Thoughts have a tendency to associate and connect to other similar thoughts, which is why remembering or experiencing something negative brings up more negative thoughts that we remembered from other unpleasant times in our lives.

What Makes a Negative Thought More Credible Than a Positive One?

Nothing – A negative thought isn’t more credible, more powerful, more true or more believable than a positive or neutral thought.   We just think it is because we get stuck sometimes.

Humor is Like a Railroad Switch

Simple manually-operated railway switch in Oulu, Finland / By: TeVe

Simple manually-operated railway turnout in Oulu, Finland / By: TeVe

A railroad switch is a mechanical installation enabling railway trains to be guided from one track to another.

Our brains have similar switching mechanisms. When the brain is introduced to something novel it begins to reorganize the existing tracks and creates new neural pathways.  When we use humor, smiles and laughter to interrupt the tape loop that’s replaying negative thoughts or fears, the brain focuses on the humor.

Humor transports us to the present moment.  We can’t laugh in the past.  We can’t laugh in the future.  We can only laugh in the present and we need to be in the present to change things.

Hope Safely Guides Us

Airport runway approach/By Colin Grimes

Airport runway approach/By Colin Grimes

Just as runway lights guide an airplane into an airport — hope safely guides us to a better place.

Conditions may be awful; with fog so thick we’re in danger of losing our bearings – but thanks to the lights that show us the way; pilots of aircraft and pilots of life are able to see the runway when they approach.

Hope is dedicated to a positive outcome.  During the aircraft’s final approach to landing, the pilot can’t return to instrument flying once she has decided to leave it.

Hope stabilizes our approach and lands us in a better place.  Hope readjusts the controls so we may return to face our challenging situations in a gentle and safe way.

It’s said that “Every good landing begins with a good approach.”  Hope is a wonderful approach to achieve a soft landing.


© Carol Horos, June 3, 2014