Study: Humor Makes Us Hopeful

A little humor can brighten your outlook, a new study suggests.

People who watched a 15-minute comedy video scored higher on a survey of hopefulness compared to those who didn't get the chance to guffaw.

The finding suggests humor could be a strategy to relieve stress and maintain well-being, the researchers say. The work was published recently in the International Journal of Humor Research.

Previous studies have revealed laughter is good medicine. A report released last month from the University of Maryland Medical Center found laughter makes blood vessels function better, causing the tissue that lines the vessels to expand, increasing blood flow. A previous study at the same institution concluded that laughter and an active sense of humor may protect against heart attacks.

Other surveys have found that humor can relieve stress and contribute to a person's overall well-being.

But why would humor foster hope? Maybe just by inhibiting negative thoughts, said Texas A&M psychologist David H. Rosen, one of the new paper's authors.

Laugher can stimulate thought and cause you to toss out automatic behavioral responses in favor of more creative pursuits, Rosen said. That leads to a greater sense of self worth and a tendency to develop plans of attack for dealing with problems.

The study involved 200 people aged 18-42. It measured not only smiles and laughter, but included surveys to reveal other ways participants reacted to humor.

"Someone who may not laugh as much while viewing a comedy video may still find the video quite humorous and thus have as much beneficial effects as someone who laughed a lot during the video," explained the lead author, Alexander Vilaythong of the University of North Texas.

Any advise for the hopeless?

"I would recommend that individuals seeking sources of hopefulness view comedy videos," Vilaythong told LiveScience. "Other sources of humor may work as well, such as finding humor in daily life, but I will leave that for future studies."