The 7 Humor Habits Program – Research Shows that it Works!

A guy walks into a fancy bar, but they won’t let him in without a necktie.  So he gets his jumper cables out of his car and ties them around his neck.  He goes back to the bar and says, “OK, can I get in now?”  They answer, “Well, all right, but you better not start anything.”

[NOTE: See the February 10 -May 4, 2012 articles listed under “Radio Humor Training Exercises” for specific guidelines on using the 7 Humor Habits Program to boost your sense of humor and learn to use humor to cope with stress.]

We’ve all heard people say at some point in our lives that “You’re either born with a good sense of humor or you’re not . . . and I wasn’t, so there’s not much I can do about it.” Well, we can put that idea to rest now because a tool now exists to help you boost your sense of humor and learn to use humor to cope with the stress in your life.

This Humor Training Program, called The 7 Humor Habits Program, shows how to improve the basic foundation skills of your sense of humor—with the ultimate goal of using these humor skills to cope with the stress in your life and build more happiness into your difficult days.  This program is presented in full in my book, Humor as Survival Training for a Stressed-Out World: The 7 Humor Habits Program.  (See “Books by Dr. McGhee” for a description and ordering information.)

The goal of the 7 Humor Habits Program is not to make you a stand-up comedian; rather, it is to build some basic humor habits which allow you to keep your sense of humor on your worst days—the very days you need it the most (and when it almost always abandons you).  By practicing the humor activities recommended in the program, you build up your ability to notice funny things and to think funny on the good days, when you’re already in a good mood.  Gradually, you come to have greater and greater access to these same humor skills when you’re angry, anxious or depressed.  A stronger sense of humor becomes integrated into your everyday personality and style of relating to the world.

It takes two or four months (depending on whether you spend one or two weeks on each habit–two weeks have the greatest impact) to complete the program.  People who go through the program with a partner also make more progress and have greater success in using humor to cope with life stress.  At the end of the program, you will be able to take greater control over your daily frame of mind, rather than leaving it at the mercy of whether you’ve had a good or a bad day so far.  Humor as Survival Training for a Stressed-Out World presents the 7 Humor Habits Training program in detail. It provides a full discussion of each of the Humor Habits and provides many exercises and activities specifically designed to strengthen each Habit.

The program starts by showing you how to better understand the nature of your own sense of humor as it now stands.  You are encouraged to immerse yourself in humor as you map out your own humor style.  An entire week or two is then devoted to simply becoming a more playful person, since this has a tremendous impact on allowing your own natural sense of humor to come out and show itself more fully.  Separate attention is then given to developing a more hearty belly laugh (since some of the health benefits associated with humor may well come from the physical act of laughing) and to verbal humor.  While joke-telling is not considered to be as important as the other habits, basic joke-telling skills are first practiced before moving on to the more important habit of creating your own spontaneous verbal humor.

Attention is then given to the key habit of finding more humor in your own everyday life.  After boosting your skill at poking fun at yourself, the basic foundation skills are established and you then learn to simply extend these same skills to stressful situations (well, maybe not so “simply,” since this is the toughest habit to strengthen).  The basic idea in the program is to first build key humor habits on your good days, when all is going well and you’re in a positive, upbeat, happy mood.  Once these habits are well established, you are asked to then gradually extend the same habits to more and more stressful life circumstances.

Specific “Home Play” activities are provided to help you practice the very things you need to be doing to build up strong skills associated with each humor habit.  The more of these activities and exercises you do while working on a given habit, the more progress you make in building that habit.

The book also provides a “pre-test” and “post-test” which enables you to assess your sense of humor before and after completing the program.  This allows you to determine for yourself whether you have made progress in building your humor habits and skills.  It also includes guidelines for leading a group of individuals (support groups, work groups, etc.) who are all going through the 7 Humor Habits Program together.  This enables you to lead such a group yourself, even if you’ve had no prior experience in doing so.

Yes, It Really Works!

The 7 Humor Habits Program has now been tested in the USA, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Australia.  All of these studies have been completed by university researchers who had no personal connection with the program.  The research has consistently demonstrated improvement on the sense of humor measure associated with the program as well as other measures of sense of humor.  It has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and to generate significant boosts in positive mood and optimism.  The program has been used as a clinical tool for battling depression in Germany and Switzerland. A clinical psychologist and psychiatrist in Germany have prepared a manual based on the 7HHP to be used by therapists in working with a range of psychological disorders. This book will be published in 2012. The exact reference is

Falkenberg, I., McGhee, P. & Wild, B. Humorfähigkeiten trainieren: Ein Manual für die psychiatrisch-psychotherapeutische Praxis. Stuttgart: Schattauer, 2012 (in press).

It should also be noted that the program has been shown to be effective across the adult age span, from college students to middle-aged adults to seniors (average age in the 70’s).  So, in contrast to what you may have long believed or heard, it’s not too late to learn to lighten up!  Remember, they who laugh . . . last.