Guest Blogger: Dr. Bob Nozik – HAPPINESS, HUMOR, & LOVE

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Bob Nozik, MD*

In future BLOGS I will show you ways for increasing your happiness, I promise.  But today I want to let you in on a rather provocative concept of mine relating happiness, humor, and love in a way I bet you’ve never heard before.

My interests primarily have to do with finding ways for raising people’s enduring happiness.  However, I discovered early on that laughter and humor are inexorably entwined with happiness.

What I want to do today is give you, the reader, a unique insight into what I consider some amazing parallels between happiness, humor, and love.

I’ll begin by making a few key observations for each of the three, tie them together and draw some conclusions.

Happiness: There are two distinctly different kinds of happiness: the common “hedonic” and the much rarer “eudaimonic” happiness. 

We all experience hedonic happiness, five, six, seven or more times every day of our lives.  It is the happiness that comes to us whenever something happens we want or like.  Examples would include when our favorite sports team wins a game; winning the lottery; finding a great parking place.  Note that it comes from things outside of our self.  This kind of happiness feels great but never lasts as long as we want.

Eudaimonic happiness, unfortunately, is rarely seen in our society.  It is internally generated and is relatively independent of external events.  Best of all, once we learn how to get and maintain it, it won’t ever leave.  Also, it feels different from its hedonic cousin.  Hedonic happiness comes on as an exuberant, joyful blast while eudaimonic expresses itself as a deep, enduring, inner peace and contentment.

Humor: Humor comes from incongruent or surprising situations and jokes resulting in the emotion of mirth.  Humor, says Rod A. Martin (Psychology of Humor, Academic Press, 2007) is “a broad-based term that refers to anything people say or do that is perceived as funny and tends to make others laugh…”  We bump into humor all around us and most of us experience humor a number of times every day. 

Most of us highly value having a good sense of humor.  In fact, a recent study reports the 80% of us believe we have a better than average sense of humor.  Those with a good sense of humor find humor in almost everything and everywhere.  Some of those with the most highly evolved sense of humor develop what is called a humorous perspective where they find humor in almost every aspect of life, even including death.    Though few reach it, this represents the highest level of sense of humor.

Ardent Love: As in the case of happiness and humor, there are two kinds of amorous or ardent love; the rather commonly seen romantic variety and the much more rarely encountered mature love.  Most of us will experience the passion and heat of romantic love a number of times–five, six, or more times–before we settle down with “the One.” 

It should be noted that 50% of marriages end in divorce and, in my view, at least 50% of those remaining stay together, not because the marriages are successful but due to inertia, fear of being alone, or other fears. 

The number of truly successful long-term marriages, the kinds based on what I call mature love, is very rare indeed.  Still, most of us know one or two couples who not only still love, but truly enjoy and respect each other after 20, 40, or even more years together.

Summary Chart: Let’s chart the parallels we can make from what’s just been said humor, happiness, and love.

Category/sub cat.       Onset             Incidence        Duration         Life Impact
A) Humor                      Rapid              Common         Brief                 Small
B) Sense of Humor        Gradual          Rare                 Long                 Great

A) Hedonic                    Rapid              Common         Brief                 Small
B) Eudaimonic              Gradual           Rare                 Long                 Great

A) Romantic                 Rapid               Common         Brief                 Small
B) Mature                     Gradual            Rare                Long                 Great

Perhaps these similarities between humor/happiness/love are just serendipitous; however, I suspect that the linkages between them are real.  All three have an emotional component (humor, hedonic happiness, and romantic love) and, as the chart shows, they are remarkably similar in their presentation, course, and effect.  Similarly, all three have enduring life-path elements (sense of humor, eudaimonic happiness, and mature love) which are also quite similar in their course, development, and impact.

Could it be that humor, happiness, and love are really just variations of our basic humanity?  I suspect they are linked in a fundamental way.  And, while I am unaware of any research joining them in this way, I suspect that if we looked, we would find that the people who enjoy eudaimonic happiness also possess a strong sense of humor and enjoy mature love. 

“Love doesn’t make the world go ’round, it just makes the ride worthwhile.”
“Love may make the world go ’round, but laughter keeps us from getting dizzy.”

What do you think?  

Bob Nozik, MD, has been writing and speaking on happiness since developing his own deep, inner, nearly constant happiness 25 years ago.  Bob is Professor Emeritus from University of California San Francisco Medical Center, having retired in 1999.  He is the author of two books on happiness: 1) “Happy 4 Life: Here’s How to Do It,” and “Happy Tymes Rhymes: Just for the Fun of It.”  Both books can be ordered from or by contacting Bob at: [email protected].  

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Steve Wilson
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About the Author

Steve Wilson

Award-winning psychologist, Steve Wilson, also known as The Joyologist and The Cheerman of the Bored, has spent 30 years specializing in applied and therapeutic humor with a humanitarian mission. As Director of National Humor Month, he intertwines science and ancient wisdom with substance and humor to create practical methods to lead the world to health, happiness and peace through laughter. More than six thousand people have completed his unique training in how to create therapeutic laughter, and tens of thousands more around the world have been uplifted by his talks, classes, books, and articles. He established the World Laughter Tour, Inc., in 1998, to be a rich resource and inspiration for improving productivity, health, and well being in business, healthcare and education. For more information and