If you think you’re not a very funny person, it could be because you haven’t developed a sense of humor – or because you’ve lost the one you had. In any case, a lack of humor isn’t something that you should resign yourself to. “We all have the ability to create and enjoy humor,” says Paul McGhee. Based on this idea, he developed a humor training program back in the 1990s with the aim of improving people’s sense of humor. His program is made up of seven steps, or humor habits, that help us to find our inner clown.
1. Immerse yourself in humor – you can do so by tapping into external sources of humor, for example by going to a comedy show or reading newspaper cartoons. Even better: “Hang around with your funniest friends, and your sense of humor will emerge naturally,” recommends McGhee.
2. Cultivate a playful attitude – children are playful, and for McGhee, humor is a way to recapture this natural playfulness.
3. Laugh more often! – laughing simply makes us feel better, even if we don’t know why. And laughter is contagious!
4. Create your own humor – this can be done very easily by learning jokes that you can then share with others. If telling jokes doesn’t come naturally to you, you can also tell a story about something funny that happened to you. McGhee himself enjoys creating jokes using puns, such as the following: When do doctors get most annoyed? When they’re out of patience/patients!
5. Look for humor in everyday life – and once you’ve found it, write it down and share it with friends. McGhee believes that our everyday life is ripe with humor – we just have to open our eyes to it.
6. Laugh at yourself – with the exception of number 7, this is the most difficult step, since it’s embarrassing to us. But it’s best to confront this embarrassment head on by writing a list of the things that embarrass you and then making fun of them – at first maybe only when you’re alone.
7. Find humor in the midst of stress – the most challenging step, but not one that can’t be solved. “If you can keep your sense of humor even when you’re having a really bad day, it improves your life tremendously. As well as the lives of all those around you,” says McGhee.
McGhee’s humor training program takes eight weeks to complete. So if you want to improve your sense of humor, you need some staying power, but it’s worth the effort. Willibald Ruch has investigated the effects of the program: He found that it improves people’s mood as well as their sense of humor, and not only subjectively: Humor program participants also seemed happier to the people around them.
Text: Thomas Gull
English translation: Philip Isler