The First Humor Habit: Immerse Yourself in Humor & Start Thinking about the Nature of Your Sense of Humor

Weekly postings of skill-building exercises related to each key Humor Habit will appear here at from now until May 4, 2012. These articles offer guidelines for activities which strengthen each Humor Habit. The full manual for the 7 Humor Habits Program is published in Humor as Survival Training for a Stressed-Out World.

“You show your character in nothing more clearly than what you think laughable.” (Goethe, German philosopher)

“Remember, it is not written down on tablets of stone somewhere, ‘This is funny! Thou shalt laugh!’ You are the world’s best expert on what is funny . . . to you.” (Paul McGhee)

My daughter recently had her ears pierced for the first time in a temporary booth set up in our local mall. A sign by the booth said, “Ears pierced while you wait.”

I did a mental double take when I first saw that sign. I couldn’t help but laugh. Very clever advertising, I thought. Bringing a chuckle to people walking by brightens their day and probably even makes them pay attention to the product being sold. It definitely DID tap into my sense of humor. How about yours? This may not be your cup of comical tea, and that’s fine. It might be too simple, or maybe you just don’t like word play humor in general. The important thing is that there is something that DOES come up in everyday life that strikes your funny bone. The goal in this first part of the 7 Humor Habits Program (7HHP) is to start thinking more about the things you do laugh at.

If you haven’t already done so, take the Sense of Humor Test posted in the Feb 3 article at this website.

Skill-Building Exercises for the First Humor Habit

The main goal for Week 1 of the Humor Training is to start thinking about the nature of your sense of humor and getting a better understanding of it. An important part of this will occur when you take the Sense of Humor test. But it is just as important for you to spend this week immersing yourself in humor in every way you can. As you do this, use the following suggestions to start gaining more insight into your sense of humor as it is now. Some suggestions below are also designed to get you thinking about early and current influences on your sense of humor.

1) Make a list of the different ways you can build more outside sources of humor into your daily life. Include spending more time with friends who make you laugh, watching sit coms or other funny TV shows, go to comedy movies, read the cartoons first whenever you pick up a magazine, start looking at the comics in your newspaper, listen to comedy performances by your favorite comedians and comedians you don’t like, etc.

2) Do as many things on the list as you can each day. As you do so, make it a point to actively think about the things that DO and DO NOT make you laugh (or that strike you as funny, even if you don’t laugh). Keep a little notebook (or your favorite electronic device) with you so you can jot down your observations or insights as they occur to you. THIS IS IMPORTANT; do it as they occur to you. You’ll forget many of these insights if you don’t.

3) Look for common themes in the humor you do and do not find funny. This will start to give you a good idea of the nature of your sense of humor. Here are just a few considerations: a) the content (hostile/put-down, sexual, clever plays on words, political, etc.; also make up your own ways of thinking about differences in the content of TV shows, cartoons, jokes, etc.) b) memorized jokes vs. spontaneous wit, c) everyday situations that come up in life, d) situations where people are able to laugh at themselves in some way.

4) To generate your own ideas for thinking how to describe your sense of humor, spend the week talking to friends and colleagues about the things they think are funny. It’s not always easy to say why you find something funny, but engage in that conversation with people; you’ll be surprised at some of the things you hear. You’ll also get some good insights about your own sense of humor as you discuss this with people.

5) Give some thought to how important humor was in your parents’ lives and in your everyday experiences in your family in growing up. Who had the most important influence on your sense of humor when you were growing up?

For more detailed and systematic guidelines for mapping out the nature of your sense of humor, see the manual for the 7 Humor Habits Program in my book, Humor as Survival Training for a Stressed-Out World: The 7 Humor Habits Program.

Copyright owned by Paul McGhee. This article may not be reproduced without written permission granted by Dr. McGhee.