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Humor can increase hope, research shows


Laughter might be the best medicine for transforming the faintest of glimmers of hope into an eternal spring, reveals research at Texas A&M University that shows humor may significantly increase a person’s level of hope.

The experience of humor can positively influence a person’s state of hopefulness, says Texas A&M psychologist David H. Rosen who, along with colleagues Alexander P. Vilaythong, Randolph C. Arnau and Nathan Mascaro, studied nearly 200 subjects ranging in age from 18-42.

As part of the study, which appeared in the International Journal of Humor Research, select participants viewed a 15-minute comedy video. Those that viewed the video had statistically significant increases in their scores for hopefulness after watching it as compared with those that did not view the video, Rosen notes.

The finding, he says, is important because it underscores how humor can be a legitimate strategy for relieving stress and maintaining a general sense of well-being while increasing a person’s hope. Previous studies have found that as high as 94 percent of people deem lightheartedness as a necessary factor in dealing with difficulties associated with stressful life events, he says.

Rosen says humor may competitively inhibit negative thoughts with positive ones, and in so doing, foster hope in people. Positive emotions, such as those arising from experiencing humor, can stimulate thought and prompt people to discard automatic behavioral responses and pursue more creative paths of thought and action, he explains.

Such a process, Rosen says, could lead to a person experiencing a greater sense of self-worth when dealing with specific problems or stressful events. He says these positive emotions could, in turn, lead to an increase in a person’s ability to develop a "plan of attack" for a specific problem as well as increase a person’s perceived ability to overcome obstacles in dealing with that problem - two aspects that psychologists believe comprise hope.

During the course of the study, Rosen found that there was little or no relationship between hope and the number of stressors experienced throughout the past month, but did find a relationship between severity of the stressors and a decrease in hope. This suggests that the accumulated severity of recent stressors seem to have more of am impact on hope than the actual number of stressors, he says.

In the study, sense of humor was not only represented as the tendency to display laughter, smiles and other similar responses, but was measured across four factors - humor production, humor as a coping strategy, attitudes toward humorous people and attitudes about humor.

Ryan Garcia | EurekAlert!
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