Go Ahead, Laugh at Yourself. It’s a Good Thing!

Published on the Daily Femme – Thursday, August 18, 2011

Contributed by Annamarya

Seriously, laugh at yourself. Laugh at your silly mistakes, unflattering photos, and foolish questions. Laugh if your daughter tells you she’s getting you an AARP membership because you’re turning 56. Just laugh.

Why? According to a new, first-ever study conducted by Ursula Beermann of the University of California at Berkeley and Willibald Ruch of the University of Zurich, being able to laugh it out, especially at yourself, is not only a “distinct trait,” but is also indicative of an optimistic personality and good sense of humor.

The pair asked 70 psychology students, as well as friends of the participants, to rate their ability to laugh at their own expense. While they filled out a questionnaire, the testers took photos of the students’ faces and distorted them via image-manipulating software to achieve a funhouse-mirror effect. They were then videotaped looking at the altered photos of strangers, with their own photos thrown in the mix. Their responses and ability to positively react to what they saw were then analyzed by Beermann and Ruch using an emotional expression rating system. As a result, the researchers not only found that 80 percent of testers “genuinely smiled or laughed at least once when seeing their own silly image,” but those students who claimed to know how to laugh at themselves (with matching friends’ ratings)  ”genuinely laughed and smiled more often and more intensely than the others.” Additionally, there was only a slight analogue between the tester’s answers and those of their friends, implying, almost obviously, that “people either think they’re better at it than they actually are or that they want to present themselves this way.”

Ultimately, Beermann & Ruch’s study shows that being able to laugh at oneself is connected to a person’s mood and personality “rather than the tendency to simply find silly images funny,” emphasizing the tie between humility and humor. Thus, if you can find the amusement in your own puerility, then you’re overall more likely to be “more cheerful and less serious,” and generally have a better personal temperaments, as the study found of  its participants on testing day.

While it may be hard to have a chuckle in this frustrating political and economical climate, we should all try to loosen up a bit when it comes to ourselves because laughing is good for the heart and soul. And if it can help us prolong our lives, that means more years of working as activists and changing the world for the better.

TIME Healthland: Why Laughing at Yourself May be Good for You: First-Ever Study

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