Getting serious about funny

Around here, we take humor pretty seriously. We know that there’s magic to funny moments—without thinking twice, they strengthen our ability to see things from a more positive perspective. Plus, they’re just about the quickest thing to help break down social barriers and bring us closer together. When someone erupts into laughter at one of our jokes, we know that they get it, and on some level, they get us too.

In “Life is Good: The Book,” Life is Good cofounders Bert and John Jacobs describe humor as a tool to make light of the rejections they faced when selling t-shirts by the dozen to retailers back in the brand’s early days. While some would let those, “no’s” drag them down, the brothers used humor as a way to boost optimism, taking turns to crack each other up and clear the air before moving on to their next pitch. “Humor is most important when morale is low,” they write. “One funny line, funny face, or crazy imitation can raise the spirits. It can also break the tension, reset the table, and refocus people on opportunities” (pg. 95).

Decades later, we continue bringing humor into the workplace through jokes, stories, and even the occasional Cornhole tournament. No matter which we opt for, they give us a break from routine, a chance to laugh at ourselves, and help keep us feeling engaged with our work and the people around us. It’s not just us who are feeling the benefits of funny times, either. Studies show that a hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress in all of us, improves our resistance to disease, triggers the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, and even improves sleep. It’s no replacement for a visit to the doctor, but it’s proof: laughter’s a strong medicine.

One of the most essential ingredients for a healthy sense of humor is the ability not take yourself too seriously. After all, we all do foolish things from time to time—a trip on the sidewalk, waving to a stranger we think is a friend—and could use the reminder to embrace our imperfections instead of feeling embarrassed or ashamed. With enough practice, it becomes the kind of humility that lets us see humor in all kinds of circumstances, and keep the funny going. So, next time you’re in a situation that gives you the chance to laugh or not, choose laughter. No joke, it’s where magic comes into play.