new_study_laugh_at_yourself.jpgLearning to laugh at yourself—this is something that takes humility, perspective, and a sense of humor. We’ve said that this bolsters confidence, strengthens relationships, and even improves your sex life. And now research shows that this contributes to your overall health too.

A study published by the American Psychological Association and reported in TIME Healthland indicates that people who have the ability to laugh at themselves tend to “be more cheerful and less serious overall.”

In the study, Ursula Beermann from the University of California–Berkeley and Willibald Ruch from the University of Zurich asked 70 students to rate their ability to laugh at themselves—and to rate some of their friends as well. While they did so, cameras would photograph their faces and then manipulate the images to create goofy distorted photos. Researchers inserted these images among those of other participants, then recorded the participants' reactions to seeing their faces warped in this manner on video. The clips were then analyzed to determine the authenticity of the participants' emotional reactions.

The results? “Eighty percent of participants genuinely smiled or laughed at least once when seeing their own silly image. However, those who claimed to have the ability to laugh at themselves--and whose friends' assessments matched their own--genuinely laughed and smiled more often and more intensely than the others,” writes Maia Szlavitz for She goes on to mention that the study also revealed a relationship between humor and humility.

But you might think, so what? Because the participants of the study who were able to laugh at themselves seemed to generally be more upbeat and less serious, this could have a bearing on stress and anxieties and a person’s ability to deal with these. Stressing out can result in physiological effects like a rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure. Laughter helps you release some of the stress you’re bottling in. Holding on to your sense of humor also helps you stay positive, even in less-than-ideal situations—and research shows positivity may help you live longer.

So lighten up! Don’t take yourself too seriously. Learn to poke fun at your mistakes and, yes, laugh in the face of the oncoming years and your own imperfections.

[Click here to read “Why Laughing at Yourself May Be Good for You: First-Ever Study” by Maia Szlavitz on TIME Healthland]

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(Photo by mangpages via Flickr Creative Commons)

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