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Good Humor, Good Health

© David S. Sobel MD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Mind Body Health by David S. Sobel MD. View all columns in series

Exaggerate
Try using humorous exaggeration to help put things into perspective. Expand situations into mock life and death proportions. Woody Allen once remarked: "More than any other time in history, humankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

Dear Mom and Dad, I am sorry that I have not written, but all my stationery was destroyed when the dorm burned down. The car crash that followed when we drove away wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time, for we were all alive. I am now out of the hospital and the doctor said that I will be fully recovered within a few years, and I may well be able to walk one day. I have also moved in with the boy who rescued me, since most of my things were destroyed in the fire.

Love,
Hilary

PS. There was no fire, no accident and my health is perfectly fine. In fact, I do not even have a boyfriend. However, I did get a D in French and a C in Math and Chemistry, and I just wanted to make sure that you keep it all in perspective.

Try a Retake
Ever been stuck in the supermarket line that doesn't move an inch while the lines you rejected are flying past you? You might find yourself thinking, "Oh no, why me, why now, I'm late!"

Try taking another attitude. Reframe the situation. Make your moans into a comic routine for yourself.

Exaggerate, add funny extras, explore the humorous possibilities:

"Just my luck. The man at the head of the line knows the checker and they want to chat. So they pretend they don't know the price of canned tuna. In fact, the shopper probably looked everywhere for a can with no price so that he could bring it to his friend the checker. Maybe he has lots of items with no prices.

It probably takes him hours to do his shopping, looking for those items. He's just lucky that by the time he's finished collecting all his unpriced items, his friend hadn't gone on break."

Try Humor Instead of Anger
Next time you are really livid about an inconvenience - like poor service, try making your point with humor instead of anger:

David went with his family to a fancy restaurant. Everyone ordered clam chowder. David noticed a gritty texture in the soup, scowled and began to complain angrily. His nine-year-old son, Matt, also noted the grit but replied with a grin, "The clams are so fresh, you can still taste the sand in them!"

Use Humor to Handle Anxiety
Think of something humorous to say when you need someone to know that you are frightened, anxious, or in some way unhappy. It can lighten a tense moment and break the ice.

Nick was lying on a hospital gurney after he mysteriously collapsed in the street. His wife was beside him, anxiously wringing her hands. The atmosphere was extremely tense as a young doctor took down his medical details and asked, "Do you get breathless at night?" "Only when I get lucky," he replied.

Everyone suddenly exploded into laughter and the unhelpful tension was broken.

Humor can help reduce anxiety in many different ways. If you are terrified of speaking in public or fear making a presentation at work, for example, imagine your audience wearing funny hats or sitting there without their clothes on. Suddenly they won't seem so threatening. Practice by imagining a stressful situation. Then invent a humorous response, and rehearse it.

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About The Author
David S. Sobel, M.D., M.P.H., is a practicing physician in adult medicine and Medical Director of Patient Education and Health Promotion for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. He is physician lead for the national initiative in Self-Care and Shared Decision-Making for Kaiser Permanente. He is coauthor of Living a Healthy Life with Chronic......more
 
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Disclaimer: The information provided on HealthWorld Online is for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.