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How Your Sense of Humour Affects Your Mental Health.

Four styles of humour linked to cognitive distortions.

By writemindmattersPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
How Your Sense of Humour Affects Your Mental Health.
Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

Studies show that certain styles of humour can suggest our risk of depression through cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are negative thought patterns that often lead to depression and dysphoria (the opposite of euphoria).

“Cognitive distortions were associated with reduced use of adaptive Affiliative and Self-Enhancing humour styles and increased use of maladaptive Aggressive and Self-Defeating humour” — Katerina Rnic.

Cognitive distortions include mindreading or assuming people think negatively about them, catastrophizing, emotional reasoning or basing thoughts on emotions rather than fact, mentally filtering negative information, and much more.

Our sense of humour can also predict the way others perceive us, our self-perception, and our emotional and psychosocial well-being. Could altering our style of sense of humour improve such perceptions and negative cognitive distortions?


Clinical trials studied whether or not turning a trigger into a joke would prevent depressive episodes. Researchers found that humour was more effective at regulating emotions than using spontaneous emotional regulation and equally as effective as positive appraisal.

Humour training has had positive results in treating depression, anxiety, and adjustment disorder. Studies found that humour training improves patients ability to regulate emotions and cope with adverse events.

The above study used strategies from the Falkenberg, McGhee and Wild humour training programme designed to teach strategies for coping with stress. The programme includes seven 90-minute sessions as follows:

1. Session Introduction

2. Session Playfulness (vs. seriousness)

3. Session Laughter and its positive influences

4. Session Verbal humour

5. Session Humor in everyday life

6. Session Personal weaknesses

7. Session Humor and stress

By Igor Rodrigues on Unsplash

We can't change who we are, but we can make small changes in the way we think and perceive things to broaden our insight and gain greater control over our emotions. One small change could include adjusting our sense of humour; choosing a more adaptive style of humour.


The adaptive styles include the affiliative and self-enhancing senses of humour and the maladaptive styles are aggressive and self-defeating.

Affiliative Humour.

This style is witty and spontaneous, often used to break the ice and bring people together. Naturally, affiliative humour is more closely associated with strong relationships, relationship satisfaction, extraversion, and secure attachments. People with this style of humour are less likely to suffer loneliness and social anxiety.

Self-Enhancing Humour.

Self-enhancing humour is cheerful, playful, and tends to find the funny in everything, even things many wouldn’t find amusing. People with a self-enhancing sense of humour have strong self-esteem, are emotionally stable, optimistic, and viewed more positively. People with this style are unlikely to suffer depression, anxiety, or other signs of emotional distress.

Aggressive Humour.

Aggressive humour is manipulative and controlling and involves laughing at another’s expense. Aggressive humour is sarcastic, critical, and demeaning. People with an aggressive sense of humour have low agreeableness, a lack of conscientiousness, a heightened sense of entitlement, and relationship dissatisfaction. Aggressive humour is associated with hostile and neurotic personalities.

Self-Defeating Humour.

Self-defeating humour is making fun of or belittling oneself to entertain others. People who use this style often have low self-esteem and cognitive distortions. People with self-defeating humour are more likely to suffer emotional distress, including anxious attachments, neuroticism, depression, and anxiety.


Altering your sense of humour style is a useful tool if you are already managing depression and anxiety. However, if you have not yet sought professional help and cognitive distortions or depression and anxiety are significantly impacting your life and the lives of the people around you, it may be necessary to contact your GP. Your GP can offer professional advice, help with referrals, and treatments.

Thank you for reading.

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About the Creator


Writing about all matters of the mind, narcissism, personality disorders, parenting, writing, naturopathy, nutrition, and hopefully chapters from fantasy books I'll one day write.

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