How to Find Humor in Tough Situations (Day 65)

“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.”  –Lord Byron

I started with this quote for two reasons.

The first is that I wrote in Friday’s blog (link here) that one way to manage stress, is to “create opportunities for levity in your day.” This, upon rereading, is extremely unhelpful. It’s a writer’s trick to use formal, important sounding language as a way to appear like you know what you’re talking about when you don’t.

The second reason is my high school senior paper, a truly bad research paper, was on Lord Byron and his novel, Don Juan. This makes me laugh–a little because the paper was a particularly pathetic effort for someone who claimed to love books, but more because despite my disinterest in the research side of literature in high school, I chose to be a literature major in college. And I enjoyed it, especially the discovery of what drives novelists like Byron to choose their characters and their stories, which happens to be the theme of that truly bad research paper I wrote in high school.

Laughing at ourselves is self-medicating without all the side effects. 

I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love to laugh, but most people (myself included) don’t know how to “create opportunities for levity” when in the midst of a stressful situation. Sure, when we’re feeling happy and at ease,  we can find humor in just about anything, but when we’re anxious or distressed, all bets are off.

The worst possible time to think clearly about anything (except maybe survival) is when you feel overwhelmed or panicked. In those moments, or hours or days, how are we supposed to create those opportunities for levity? Creating opportunities requires one to develop new thoughts, which is difficult when under strain.

How is it possible, then, to create opportunities for levity when stressed out?

Natural comedians know how use pain or discomfort to create comedy, but the rest of us need to find an easy path to the light stuff when we’re not feeling light at heart.

I think the best way to lay an easy path for those times when your mind is too busy stressing out to be able to switch gears is to create what I’ll call a “humor file.” It can be a physical file folder, an online one or both. My choice would be to keep it on Evernote or One Note or another app that makes it easy to access by phone or your electronic tablet when you are away from your home files and your computer.

What goes in your humor file? I’ll make a few suggestions but I’m sure there are many more depending upon what makes you laugh.

  1. cartoons/comics
  2. links to clips from stand-up comedians or funny tv spots
  3. a list of puns that you find online or make up yourself
  4. links to comedy tapes
  5. favorite jokes, found in joke books or make a list of private jokes you have with other people
  6. a list of everyday items that make you laugh, including your dog or your baby or the neighbors who sit in their yard, dressed for cosplay.
  7. list of people you know who always cheer you up
  8. links to your favorite sitcoms on Netflix or another streaming service
  9. a list of humorous quotes
  10. names of books you own either electronically or physically that are funny

The point is at a moment of stress to open the file and find an options which you can read or listen to or act upon immediately. Hopefully, in response, you will laugh or at least smile.

And if you don’t have a humor file, you could do what Art Linkletter suggests:

“. . . keep a sense of humor. It doesn’t mean you have to tell jokes. If you can’t think of anything else, when you’re my age, take off your clothes and walk in front of a mirror. I guarantee you’ll get a laugh.”

If you have any suggestions of other things to put in the humor file, please share in the comments below.


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13 thoughts on “How to Find Humor in Tough Situations (Day 65)

    1. Thank you for sharing this video — made me smile from the moment it started! To Sara’s question, and having watched the dance video, I would probably add “a list of songs that make me laugh, smile or break out a dance move”. I know this isn’t exactly “humor” but a great song can brighten up/lighten up a moment!

  1. I don’t keep a humor file, but I like to think I keep a sense of humor. A least, my mom’s dog thinks I’m funny…although he’ll do pretty much anything if he thinks it will get him a treat.

    1. It totally counts if an animal finds you funny. (btw, my dog believes I am the funniest and smartest human ever ;))

  2. I don’t have a humour file but I do have a “rejection kit”. It’s a box I put things in – things that make me happy, and happy to remember. Things like: a good review, an encouraging email I printed out, chocolate, a thank you card, the ribbon from a box of cupcakes that were from a really great celebration.

So what do you think?