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ind Body Health

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


When Laughter is Dangerous
Not all humor is positive and healthful. Following are kinds of negative "humor" to watch out for:

  • Scorn, sarcasm, ridicule, and contempt. These can be used to discharge hostile, cynical, and resentful feelings, and are harmful.
  • Inappropriate humor. When people are deeply distressed by the death of a loved one, a joke designed to "cheer them up" is unlikely to be appreciated. Similarly, people who are severely depressed are unable to respond to humor. It may make them feel worse because they realize that once they would have laughed, and now cannot. Someone seeking advice for a troubling personal problem may or may not be helped by a humorous approach. And don't joke about people's names. They have to live with them. Whatever clever comment you think you come up with is probably a very old remark to them. It is important to be sensitive to each occasion and know when humor really helps.

Excerpted with permission from the Quarterly Newsletter, Mind/Body Health Newsletter. For subscription information call 1-(800)-222-4745 or visit the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge website.

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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 Conditions, The Healing Brain,......more
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