The T-shirt read: “I am a bomb technician. If you see me running … try to keep up.” The bumper sticker said: “Insanity is hereditary … we get it from our kids.”

Bobby Cox, the manager of the Atlanta Braves baseball team has the well deserved reputation of arguing with umpires. Once, in the middle of a heated argument, he reportedly took the baseball out of the umpire’s hand and threw it into the air. The umpire calmly said: “Cox, if that comes down, you’re out of the game.”

Are you groaning by now? Did you laugh at all? Take a self-inventory; how do you feel right now? Do you have a smile on your face? Too often, we overlook the mental and physical value of humor.

I have spoken and written for many different industries. Guess who I have found to have the best sense of humor? You’re right, Funeral Directors! No, I’m not joking. However, when I asked them about it at a NFDA national meeting in Orlando, Fla., they asked me not to tell anyone – oops! Smiling, they thought it might ruin their image. It wasn’t morbid humor either. Faced with the reality of their profession, they use jokes and timing to help them balance themselves.

How often do you laugh? Can you tell a joke? Do you enjoy watching comedies, reading funny stories, laughing, or playing with children? Our brain produces immune system enhancing chemicals when we laugh. So, there is a health benefit from laughing also.

I do not suggest that you overdo it with humor. Don’t try to make everything funny. Don’t try to make people laugh all the time. Not even good comedians can do that. I do suggest that you consider finding a humorous writer or collection of funny stories or anecdotes and read a little humor every day. This will help you keep perspective. Also, it allows you to enjoy the healthy humor of others. Positive humor hurts no one.

When you want to use humor remember that timing and the unexpected are keys to success. Reread the first line of this article about the bomb technician, for a very good example of the unexpected being funny. Timing is a slight pause before the punch line, often accompanied by a quizzical look or wry smile. Think of Bob Hope and his timing. He’d often pause just long enough for his audience to start laughing at his looks or antics, even before the punch line. Reader’s Digest Magazine has a section each month called, “Laughter is the best medicine.” In many ways, they are right.

Tim O’Brien writes continuing-education courses and presents seminars on stress management.

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