We are such an inventive species. We are also a species with a sense of humor. I think the two are connected. It takes a sense of humor to be able to stumble around in an unfamiliar situation until you figure it out.

Current research has indicated that humor, specifically laughter, counteracts the devastations of stress on the body and immune system. So, it’s obvious to me that a sense of humor would ease the stress of new situations.

We were given (or developed through natural selection, depending how you see it) a sense of humor, the capacity to laugh, for a purpose. It helps us adapt, learn, grow and survive. Taking yourself and your situation too seriously deprives you of the tool of humor.

Of course, it is possible to take things too lightly. We all know the frustration of having a problem that a loved one won't take seriously enough. We also know people who handle life like a joke, and never get it together. Actually, this kind of inappropriate lightness usually masks fear; the fear that whatever situation or emotion one doesn't want to deal with is too heavy to handle.

What I see in my practice more often, however, is the other way around. We strive, we are earnest, we care deeply, and we want to do right. We forget about having fun, relaxing and enjoying, waiting for things to calm down, lightening up about how awful it all is. One of my clients who works in an AIDS hospice told me recently about how surprised he was at how much laughter and humor there was among the seriously ill patients there. Another client who works in a stressful environment found that although the complaints and frustration expressed by coworkers needed to be listened to, it didn't need to be taken too seriously. Most of it was drama, to get his attention when calmness had failed. Often couples I counsel find that taking a problem too seriously blows it out of proportion, until it threatens to overwhelm both of them. Putting it back in perspective restores clear thinking, and the problem is then easily solved.

Human beings are learning devices. We are an adaptable species. Put us in a situation we don't understand, and sooner or later, we figure it out and master it. During these holidays, I invite you to consider making your life as fun and easy as possible.

• Whatever ambition you have, take it lightly.
•  When you encounter a problem, take advice from Mary Poppins, and remember “a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
• Find as many opportunities for laughter as you can.
• Always read the funnies when you read the grimmer news.
• Focus as much energy on what is funny or positive in your life as you do on the problems. You may be surprised to find that you get even more work done when you take it a little less seriously, when you laugh a little more.

Studies of great human beings, who have helped improve the condition of our lives, shows most of them have fine senses of humor. Groups such as the Jewish people, who have survived great hardships, are known for their humor. Surviving hardship teaches us to laugh.

I believe all our human capacities have meaning in our lives. The capacity to laugh may be simply to bring us closer together, to help us be social units, but I think its existence says something more powerful. My experience in counseling tells me laughter is one of our great healers. Try laughing more. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

Devote a little time this holiday season to watching a funny movie, sharing funny stories of past holidays gone wrong, and trading jokes and cartoons you find in the paper or online. Yes, there are serious spiritual things to consider during the holidays, there are lots of things to get done and obligations to meet, but I think you’ll find it’s all lighter and easier if you see the lighter side, too.

© 2009 Tina B. Tessina
Adapted from: It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page)
ISBN 1564145484© Tina B.Tessina, 2009

Author Bio:
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California, with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page); How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page); The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) and The Real 13th Step: Discovering Self-Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page.) Her newest books, from Adams Press in 2008: Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage and Commuter Marriage. She publishes “Happiness Tips from Tina”, an e-mail newsletter, and the “Dr. Romance Blog” and has hosted "The Psyche Deli: delectable tidbits for the subconscious" a weekly hour-long radio show. Online, she is “Dr. Romance” with columns at,, and Yahoo!Personals, as well as a Redbook Love Network expert. Dr. Tessina guests frequently on radio, and such TV shows as “Oprah”, “Larry King Live” and ABC news. Follow her on
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