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Humor and Health

3.5 Contact Hours / 0.35 AOTA CEUs
Target Audience: Nurses, healthcare professionals, and interested individuals
Purpose/Goal: The outcome of this course is for the learner to describe the historical perspective of humor; describe the components of humor; and examine the types, theories, and senses of humor as well as ways in which humor is used in health care.
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How many times have you felt better after laughing? Humor and laughter make people feel alive and bring a unique perspective to life. They relieve stress and connect people to one another. Humor is a complex phenomenon and an essential part of human nature. Anthropologists have never found a culture or society that did not have humor as a part of it.

Upon completion of the course, you will be able to do the following:

  • Explain the historical perspective of humor.
  • Identify the role of humor in medieval physiology.
  • Define humor, laughter, play, and gelotology.
  • Explain when inappropriate laughter might occur.
  • Describe the four components of humor.
  • Describe the types of humor.
  • Explain the theories of humor.
  • Describe the philosophical, psychoanalytical, psychological, anthropological, and sociological perspectives of humor.
  • Identify the myths about humor and laughter.
  • Describe the psychological effects of humor.
  • Describe the physiological effects of humor.
  • Describe pathological laughter.
  • Explain the relationship between humor and stress.
  • Explain the use of humor in health care, including the use of therapeutic humor.
  • Identify the four senses of humor.
  • Describe ways to develop a sense of humor.

Imagine a prescription that reads: “Take two doses of Lily Tomlin, followed by one dose of Charlie Chaplin, and rinse with an episode of I Love Lucy. Repeat as necessary and call me in the morning.” That is exactly what political journalist Norman Cousins decided to prescribe for himself during his treatment for a life-threatening disease. Perhaps one of the most influential proponents of the healing effects of humor and laughter therapy, Cousins was diagnosed in 1964 with an advanced case of ankylosing spondylitis, a rare rheumatoid disease that causes progressive deterioration of the body’s connective tissue. He was given a poor prognosis for recovery: roughly 1 in 500. His unique approach to recovery included watching TV shows like Candid Camera and movies with Laurel and Hardy and the Marx brothers. Cousins found that 10 minutes of laughter allowed him 2 hours of pain-free sleep. Through the use of laughter and high doses of vitamin C, he recovered and spent the remaining 12 years of his life as an adjunct professor at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical School, where he established what he called a humor task force to coordinate and support clinical research into laughter (Cousins, 1979; Wooten, 2013).

Cousins emphasized that humor is not a cure-all, nor does it substitute for competent medical treatment. Humor, he believed, is a powerful therapeutic element that interrupts the panic cycle of illness. When this cycle occurs, blood vessels constrict and negative biochemical changes occur (Cousins, 1979).

The physician Patch Adams (1998), whose book was the basis of the Hollywood movie Patch Adams, also extols the health benefits of humor. He wrote, “Health is based on happiness—from hugging and clowning around to finding joy in family and friends, satisfaction in work and ecstasy in nature and the arts” (p. 1).

Humor is a universal experience that involves three basic elements: the stimulus (a funny joke or humorous situation), an emotional response (mirth), and the accompanying behavior (laughter, smiling, giggling, etc.). Nearly everyone knows how it feels to experience something humorous. Someone tells a joke, makes a witty comment, draws a funny cartoon, or has a slip of the tongue, and bystanders are suddenly struck by how funny it is. They smile, chuckle, burst out laughing, or experience a sense of pleasant well-being. Humor is such a commonplace occurrence for most people that it may seem strange to explore it.

Although humor is often lighthearted, it also serves a serious social, emotional, and cognitive function (Martin, 2007). Humor adds perspective to life, helping people deal with stressors from minor irritations such as being cut off in traffic to more challenging difficulties like life-threatening illnesses. Attracting all types and kinds of people, it breaks through barriers when mere words cannot.

Humor and laughter connect people and help build relationships. Laughter is also great exercise. It uses the breathing muscles, can increase heart rate and oxygenation, and can cause distraction, thus promoting relaxation. Nearly all of us have laughed until our sides hurt or until we collapsed in a giggling fit over a silly experience.

Laughter makes people feel alive. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said, “Our business is to be happy.” As long as people choose to laugh, it means they have affirmed life, no matter how burdensome it becomes. Although laughter is short lived, its effects are long lasting.

Complete the course post exam (CE Test) with a score of 80% or greater. Complete all fields of the course evaluation form. Certificate of Completion is provided once the course post exam is passed per criteria above.

  • American Board of Managed Care Nursing
    The American Board of Managed Care Nursing recognizes all of ALLEGRA Learning Solutions' ANCC accredited courses for continuing education credit for Certified Managed Care Nurses (CMCNs).
  • ANCC - American Nurses Credentialing Center
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited with distinction as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.
  • AOTA - American Occupational Therapy Association
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC, is an approved provider of continuing education for occupational therapists by the American Occupational Therapy Association. Approved Provider # 3166
  • ASWB - Association of Social Work Boards
    This course is approved by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program to be offered by ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC as an individual course. Individual courses, not providers, are approved at the course level. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. ACE course approval period: 04/22/2021-04/22/2024. Social workers completing this course receive the specified distance learning continuing education credits.
  • California Board of Behavioral Sciences
    California Board of Behavioral Sciences Provider Number PCE 1564. Course meets the qualifications for the stated hours of continuing education credit for MFTs and/or LCSWs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.
  • California Board of Registered Nursing
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider # CEP 14693 for the number of hours stated.
  • California Department of Health, Aid, and Technician Certification Section
    The California Department of Health, Aid, and Technician Certification Section accepts continuing education offered by CA-BRN approved providers.
  • District of Columbia Board of Nursing
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions (CE Provider # 50-12076) submits all continuing education records to CE BROKER after successful completion.
  • Florida Board of Nursing
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited as a provider of continuing education by the Florida Board of nursing (CE Provider # 50-12076). Courses are automatically submitted to CE Broker.
  • Florida Board of Nursing - Certified Nursing Assistants
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions (CE Broker Provider # 50-12076) submits all continuing education records to CE Broker after successful completion.
  • Florida Board of Respiratory Care
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited as a provider of continuing education by the Florida Board of Respiratory Care
  • Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited as a provider of continuing education by the Florida Council of Dietetitics and Nutrition
  • Florida Council of Licensed Midwifery
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited as a provider of continuing education by the Florida Council of Licensed Midwifery
  • NAADAC - The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors
    This course has been approved by ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC, as a NAADAC Approved Education Provider, for educational credits. NAADAC Provider #813, ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is responsible for all aspects of their programming.
  • NCBTMB -National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) as a continuing education Approved Provider. Provider Number 451562-11.
  • Florida Board of Massage Therapists
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited as a provider of continuing education by the Florida Board of Massage Therapists


Practice Level:


Content Focus:

Foundational Knowledge

Course Expires:

September 11, 2024

  • Cyndie Koopsen, RN, BSN, MBA, HNB-BC, RN-BC, HWNC-BC
  • Caroline Young, MPH
Jurisdictional Requirements:

Continuing education (CE) licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction, are not well defined, and may change. These CE requirements may vary in terms of the number of hours required to the types of courses that must be taken. ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC recommends you contact your licensing board or accrediting organization for the latest continuing education requirements of your state or territory. Compliance with CE requirements is the responsibility of the individual health care provider. Health care providers must understand the CE requirements in their jurisdictions, and be sure they are up-to-date on any rule changes that affect their license. For further information, please see our Accreditation Information.

Accommodations for Disabilities:

Every effort will be made to accommodate your special needs. To request accommodations, please contact us.

Conflicts of Interest and Relevant Financial Relationships:

The authors/planning committee members have no conflicts of interests or relevant financial relationships to declare relevant to this activity.

Commercial Support:

No commercial support has been received for this activity.

Non-endorsement of products:

Accreditation refers to recognition of continuing nursing education only and does not imply ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC approval or endorsement of any commercial product.

Off-label Use of Products:

None of the authors intend to discuss off-label uses of drugs, mechanical devices, biologics, or diagnostics not approved by the FDA for use in the United States.