Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dealing with Humordoomers Over the Holidays

Bah Humbug!  Chances are you will encounter a few scrooges over the holidays.  After years of trying to understand the negative responses that some people have to  joyful events and to positive people: I found myself calling these folks, “humordoomers”.   A humordoomer is a person who consistently uses negative humor to control and manipulate others. Humorphobia (a fear of positivity and humor) breeds humordoomers, skilled crafters who use subtle techniques to suppress humor in others.   

Humordoomers are usually unhappy individuals stressed by the dual demands of accountability and limited time constraints.  They are pessimistic leeches that can suck the energy right out of you. Grown in a petri dish of fear and anger, these folks are threatened by positivity and enthusiasm. They often use humor to manipulate others and to maintain a level of control of their world. Their negative humor reflects their unhappy immersion in the confining straits of their own wretched world. Often their techniques are so woven into the fabric of a culture that not only are they unaware of their own negative impact, their unsuspecting prey (you and me) are oblivious as well. 

Humordoomers are especially frustrated at this time of year when there is “joy in the air”.   The holidays make these miserable folks even more aware of their own unhappy existence.   

Humordoomers are difficult to deal with.  It is important to realize that many people find the holidays stressful. One tactic that you can use to deal with their behavior is to squash the negativity with kindness and understanding. Sometimes these folks need someone to listen to them and empathize with them.  You will need to accept the fact that these folks may be dealing with challenging mental health issues.  A note here---if you need to preserve your own energy, another survival technique is to avoid these scrooges altogether.

Your own holiday spirit mixed with some laughter and fun will often help those humordoomers move from Bah Humbug to Happy Holidays!  

Additional strategies can be found in Mary Kay Morrison's book,  “Using Humor to Maximize Learning”.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Summer 2013 Edition: NIU The Family, Consumer, and Nutrition Sciences Newsletter

FCS Alumni Teaches the Benefits of Humor and Play
Mary Kay Morrison, M.A., alumni of what is now the Family and Child Studies (FCS) program in FCNS, is an educator on the neuroscience of humor, with over 30 years of experience as an educator. She has two published books, serves on the Board of Directors for the Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH), directs the
international AATH Humor Academy graduate study and certificate program and is the founder and director of Humor Quest- her own company dedicated to bringing humor to classrooms and lives around the world.
Ms. Morrison first graduated from NIU in 1968 with a degree in Early Childhood Studies, now FCS, from the Department of Home Economics, now FCNS. She went
on to earn an Elementary Education Certification and
her M.A. in Adult Education, also from NIU. Afterward,
her career began as a kindergarten teacher but has since broadened and developed in a way she hadn’t expected. Her background in education is extensive and diverse. It includes educating adults at Kishwaukee College, facilitating gender equality programs through the Illinois State Board

of Education, and improving schools by implementing “No Child Left Behind” through the Regional Office of Education in Rockford, and much more. These experiences gave her first hand knowledge of what works best for facilitating learning. In particular, her time as an educator has taught her about the power of play and laughter.
Her interest in neuroscience and its connection to learning began with a curiosity about education for kids with special needs. She began by attending workshops on how the brain works and became educated in the new field of neuroscience. Her background in adult education, founded in counseling and psychology, and her experience working as an educator culminated with her new knowledge of the brain to set her on a path to bring humor into the lives of educators and laughter to their students.
She has been incredibly active as an educator on the neuroscience of humor. Her two books, “Using Humor
to Maximize Learning; Exploring Links between Positive Emotions and Education” and “Using Humor to Maximize Living” are being used as texts for the study of humor at several universities and are both available at NIU’s Founders Memorial Library. She also uses both as texts for the international AATH Humor Academy graduate study and

certificate program that she teaches as part of an intensive research-based conference, for graduate credit. “Students from all over the world attend this course and anyone can benefit from it,” she said as she described the course. She founded and directs the course through AATH, which is an organization for people from all walks of life that wish to study humor and its benefits. “The original Patch Adams was a part of this association,” she said, explaining the diverse composition of the association “we have neurohumorists
on the board as well as a former navy officer who teaches humor to wounded veterans and several doctors.” Ms. Morrison has volunteered as AATH conference chair from ’09-’11, is currently on the Board of Directors and is 2015 President-Elect.
Humor Quest, Ms. Morrison’s own professional outlet for educational services, offers unique workshops and handouts for “Using Humor to Maximize Living” and other uses for the study of humor. Ms. Morrison’s work has been published in Psychology Today and other journals and she has appeared on several television broadcasts. Her unique work in
this field is gaining attention as the field becomes more established. There have been recent discoveries about the benefits of laughter, including its ability to fight depression and it’s role in recovery processes. “Humor can be used in all aspects of life,” she says, “even in the grieving process- you know you are learning to heal when you can laugh about something.” Her studies have taught her that laughter releases pain, evokes strong emotion and puts information in long-term memory. She’s also a strong advocate for the evidence-based power of play, especially in early childhood education but essentially throughout the lifespan. “I believe play should be integrated and humor should be used in the assessment process as it can be linked to every aspect of the learning process,” she stated. Her strong belief in the power of play affects her own personal practices as well.
“I think you’re never too old to play,” she declared, as she then described how she incorporates play into her lifestyle by swinging at playgrounds, pogo-sticking and jumping on trampolines. The optimism and energy that comes from play and humor are what she advocates for and works to help people develop. She sees herself as a pioneer, fighting to keep smiles on people’s faces, especially at school because “education becomes more and more content driven but the process of getting through content needs to be through play and laughter.” Her successful career has aided people all over the world in improving their own humor practice.
By globally spreading the happy truth about the power of laughter, humor and play, Ms. Morrison has brought smiles to the faces of thousands and has put a proud smile on the face of NIU, her alma mater. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Humor: The Drug of Choice

Have you been exhausted, anxious, or just plain stressed lately? Has the current focus on common core standards, accountability, and insane politics put you over the edge? This is your lucky day! Step right up for a sure-fire remedy guaranteed to bring vitality and energy to teaching and learning.  You will be amazed by the immediate results gained from taking a humor stimulant.  

Directions: Take frequently as needed for depression, bad mood, loneliness, anger and stress.  The humor drug can also help improve relationships with administrators, parents and students. May be especially helpful in coping with difficult people.  Keep in reach of children.

Warning Label: Excessive use may cause tears including those running down the leg.  Can be contagious. Humor is more than the snake-oil skill of telling jokes. The research addressed here focuses on many preliminary findings, and could be biased toward the positive benefits of humor. Be absolutely certain that the drug is of the positive and healthy variety.  Negative humor will not provide these benefits.

Drug Uses:

1.     Memory Improvement:  All learning must go through our emotional filter.  Humor is an extremely powerful ingredient.  Want kids to remember what you are teaching?  Incorporate humor into all aspects of the learning process.  Example:  An 8th grade social studies teacher assigned each of his students a portion of a chapter to analyze.  Students were invited to create a joke, riddle or pun test question based on their section. Thus the entire test on the civil war was filled with humor.  Kids actually loved taking that test and (by the way) remembered the material. 
2.     Mood Booster: Laughter oxygenates the brain and exercises the abdominal muscles.  Sharing laughter with others can create extraordinary feelings of empowerment. The numerous physiological benefits of humor are reviewed in  “Using Humor to Maximize Learning: (Morrison, 2008).
3.     Anxiety Relief:  Why did Miss Tomato turn RED?  Because she saw Mr. Green Pea!  This joke is a favorite of 6 year olds as they frequently laugh about “potty” taboos. Teenagers secretly joke about sexuality topics because they are apprehensive about their changing bodies.  Many people laugh about getting old. Whenever we are concerned about life changes, a humor dosage can provide needed relief.  
4.     Increased Coping Skills:  Humor has been documented to be helpful in the mourning process. Grieving can include minor loss, such as losing a cell phone, or about more serious issues such as a diagnosis of cancer.  Laughter often emerges at funerals when sharing stories about the deceased. There are documented stories about the use of humor for prisoners of war and victims of the holocaust.  When we encounter things that are not under our control, humor can provide the necessary cognitive shift to not only survive, but to thrive.
5.     Stress Reduction:  The research on the neuroscience of humor shows actual differences in the MRI scans of people who are experiencing depression as opposed to those who have “happier” brains.  Humor has been shown to reduce stress and decrease depression. (Morrison 2012)
6.    Enhanced Communication. Humor generates trust among co-workers and can facilitate a reduction in workplace tension, fear, and anger. Leaders who employ humor strategies can encourage positive communication and ease tense situations.  Educational administrators know that humor is the number one characteristic that students value in teachers.

Review your humor dosage each day. Keep a journal of your reaction to this drug by being aware of what makes you laugh.  Your health will improve if you proceed with determination to improve your humor practice. Do not let anything deter you from your goal to have more fun, laugh more and enjoy the humor tonic.  

Note: You can start humor treatment immediately with unlimited doses.

Active Ingredients;
·       Humergy: The energy that emerges from the joy and optimism of our inner spirit, reflects our unique personality, and nourishes a healthy mind/body balance. (Morrison 2008)
·       Play: Critical for improving minds and bodies of all ages.
·       Fun:  Activates the 3 “E”s of engagement, energy and enthusiasm.

Other Important Information: When using this product- excessive laughter may occur.  Ignoring this side affect may lead to further complications.  Seek immediate medical assistance if laughter continues for longer than 4 hours.

First published on 12/2/13 by Smart Blog on Education 
Humor: Take daily as prescribed

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Educators: Taking Humor Seriously

Got stress?  You are not alone!  Educators are feeling the impact of an escalating focus on accountability, requirements and mandates. The purposeful use of humor can rescue educators from the stress of these increased demands. While stress reduction is considered one of the most important benefits of humor, there are numerous additional benefits. 

1.     Captures and retains student attention
2.     Expands student comprehension
3.     Increases the opportunity for memory retention
4.     Builds relationships with students and colleagues
5.     Creates a nurturing environment for learning
6.     Supports classroom management
7.     Helps people cope
8.     Decreases depression
9.     Enhances the joyful craft of teaching and learning
10.   Is fun!

I have been continuously amazed at how challenging it is to incorporate fun, laughter, and humor in educational systems. The higher the grade level, the more difficult it can be to implement humor practice. Some adventuresome high school teachers use cartoons and puns, but often anything else is dismissed as too elementary or childish to be considered.

A high school teacher said,  “We’re not supposed to have parties, although some teachers secretly do. In our school system the clowning and parties need to be kept at the elementary levels.”  When a teacher that I know was moving to second grade after teaching kindergarten for several years, the principal came to her and declared: “now you won’t be able to sing anymore”.  Students in fifth grade told their teacher they were “too old” to have fun anymore.

These are not isolated examples. It takes courage to practice humor especially in school cultures that are focused on accountability. Therefore is imperative that educators clearly understand and be prepared to articulate their goals when initiating humor. Feel free to share the above ten reasons why humor can and should be integrated into education.  (Morrison, 2008) Many teachers are stressed by needing to spend a great deal of time in preparation for state and federal testing. Many are saddened by the fact that there seems to be little time for fun or creativity. The fact is that the purposeful use of humor can help prepare students for that testing.


·      Put a different riddle (based on curriculum) on the bulletin board each day. Students can guess the answer and put the sheet with their name on it in a riddle box. Silly prizes can be awarded for the correct answers. This can be a school-wide activity.
·      A  “Humor Haven” encourages creativity. Provide a small area in the classroom with a mirror and props. Students can choose to become a colorful character in history (related to the content). Drama, storytelling and writing can be integrated as a way to make characters come alive.
·      Joke and riddle books excite even the bored child. Make sure that there is a humor section in the library.
·      Begin each day with a joke or funny story chosen by one of the students. This is a great way for the class clown to shine.
·      Once a week the principal can invite a student to read a joke over the loudspeaker.  Stories and jokes written by students can be shared in the school newsletter.
·      Greet students with secret visual signals that give them a clue about the lesson for the day—any goofy move will do. Refer to the signal when they leave as a reminder of the key point you want them to remember. A study of the cells could initiate a “cell” phone conversation. Three fingers in the air might indicate the three vital things they need to learn that day.
·      Have the students create tests by having each read a part of the text from which they need to create a riddle or a question in the form of a pun. These questions can be used in the actual assessments. 

The above activities are contributed from educators during humor workshops and from numerous classroom visits.  I know there are many educators who do take humor –seriously!  Feel free to share your comments about your humor practice. 

“Don’t take life too seriously –you won’t get out alive!

The information and research has been adapted from Morrison’s book, “Using Humor to Maximize Learning; The Links between Positive Emotions and Education”.  Additional resources can be found on the Humor Quest web site.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Educational Leadership: What Else is Possible? | VoiceAmerica™ | Talk Radio | Online Talk Radio

What a perfect fit! Activating Energy founders, Mary and Margaret and my focus through Humor Quest on Humergy! This energy and enthusiasm will blow the roof off! Looking forward to my May 16th interview with Mary Meduna and Margaret Ruff on Voice America Educational Leadership: What Else is Possible? | VoiceAmerica™ | Talk Radio | Online Talk Radio

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Humor is FUNdamental for Living

The Top Ten Reasons Humor is FUNdamental for Living
By Mary Kay Morrison, Humor Quest

Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut that held its ground.

Humor is just the fertilizer needed to nurture stressed and anxious folks as they cope with the cognitive/technological revolution that is shaping the 21st century.  A review of neuroscience research indicates that healthy and positive humor can have a significant impact on lifestyle.  The intentional cultivation of humor practice nourishes our energy (humergy) and can have a powerful impact on our life.   Here are the top ten reasons that people purposefully choose humor as an essential strategy for optimal well-being: 

  1. Humor plants memories. Powerful emotions are at the root of long-term memory.  Think about your strongest memory of early elementary school. Chances are that this memory is linked to a strong emotional experience—either positive or negative.   When the memory goes-forget it!   
9.   Humor grows coping skills.   Humor has often been used as a survival technique for prisoners of war.  Most of us are trying to survive the constant change of new technologies. Just trying to figure out how to operate our phones can be stressful.  Some research indicates that laughter increases adrenaline, oxygen flow, and pulse rate. After experiencing laughter, most people report feeling relaxed and calm.   No sense being pessimistic, it wouldn’t work anyway!
  1. Humor cultivates energy and engagement. Purposeful games, directed play and physical activity all promote humor and learning.  The research on the benefits of movement and learning supports the idea that play and laughter increase the oxygen levels and energy that are critical for well-being. Energizer Bunny Arrested; Charged With Battery!
  1. Humor captures and retains attention.  Laughter and surprise can hook even the most reluctant learner.  Emotion drives attention and attention drives learning. The brain cannot learn if it is not attending. Humor generates the unexpected, which alerts the attentional center of the brain and increases the likelihood of information recall.  Lost In Thought-It’s Unfamiliar Territory!
  1. Humor neutralizes stress.  Humor will decrease depression, loneliness and anger. The contagious nature of laughter is caused by mirror neurons or “brain cells that become active when an organism is watching an expression or behavior that they themselves can perform.” If you see someone laughing, even if you don’t know the reason for the laughter, you will probably laugh anyway. Laughter is contagious. Catch it! Spread it!  He Who Laughs-Lasts! 
  1. Humor enhances relationships. They may not remember what you said, but they will remember your sense of humor and how they felt when they were with you.  Build a Humor Haven in your workplace or your home filled with joke, riddle and humorous books. Make time for play. Fill your life with things that bring you smiles, including clown noses, squish balls, games/ puzzles.  What would Scooby do?
  1. Humor nurtures creativity. The employment market has transitioned from agriculture and manufacturing jobs to positions requiring ingenuity and inventiveness. Humor promotes creativity and critical thinking skills.  Often humor comes from unconnected, random thoughts.  Grow creativity through laughter yoga, telling funny stories or playing games.  Do Not Disturb, I am Disturbed Enough Already!
  1. Humor facilitates communication. Humor is a great way to build relationships with others.  Understanding your humor style will assist your humor practice.  Humor is a social lubricant.  It has the power to generate a culture of trust in your organization.  If you understand and nurture a constructive humor style, it will positively impact your ability to communicate. Humorous interaction between coworkers encourages a healthy, productive work environment.  A Closed Mouth Gathers No Foot!
  1. Humor supports the change process. We are faced with change on a daily basis. When you can laugh about unexpected challenges or even your own health issues, you know you will survive and even thrive.   A great strategy is to create a top ten list of “What’s So Funny” about the change or challenge.    Change is good-you go first!

And now for the number one reason to laugh frequently and often…

  1.  Humor Is FREE and FUN.  Living well includes humor and joy. The current fast pace of many life styles can bury a sense of humor. Dig around for humor resources to share with your friends and colleagues.   Do not let anything rob you of your passion for bringing joy to your life.  I want to live forever- so far so good!

Nurture your sense of humor, by spending time in developing and growing your humor practice.   Consider keeping a humor journal, spending time with colleagues who make you laugh, and purposefully including humor in every lesson everyday. Carefully cultivate your humor being to fully share the abundance of joyful living Remember humor is a fundamental factor in the cognitive/technological revolution that needs to shape 21st century education. 

Never take life too seriously- you won’t get out alive.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Humorphobia and Humordoomers

Humorphobia is the fear of fun, laughter, and humor. Humorphobia exists as a transparent thread often woven into the fabric of our lives.  Most leaders are passionate about creating a happy work environment, yet are hampered by unspoken negative belief systems that permeate our organizations.

Have you heard statements like this in your workplace?

  • We need to be professional here. What will the public think if we are having fun and laughing?
  • We cannot measure humor. It’s “soft data” and not meaningful in the workplace. We only operate from solid research.
  • We don’t have time for fun and games. Let’s just get this meeting over with.
  • I don’t do “touchy feely.”
  • I’ve tried humor before and it didn’t work!

The belief systems behind humorphobia are deep rooted fears that include'
  • Fear of not having time for humor because of accountability expectations
  • Fear of being perceived as silly, unproductive, an airhead, and unprofessional
  • Fear of losing “control”  
  • Fear of inadequacy or inability to tell a joke coupled with inexperience in the use of humor (because humor is not taught or modeled in most training programs)
  • Fear of punishment or retaliation in an environment that is hostile or unaccustomed to humor
  • Fear of being made fun of or being the brunt of jokes
  • Humorphobia is often barely perceptible, but has a tremendous impact on humor practice. The fears that generate humorphobia create substantial barriers for creating and sustaining humergy.
Humorphobia breeds humordoomers. Humorphobia impacts both the administrator and employee by undermining confidence, stifling creativity, and sabotaging humor practice. Working long and hard seems to be the societal norm for proving commitment and effectiveness. Time is a precious commodity and the increased demands require employers to make every minute count.

A humordoomer is a person who consistently uses negative humor to control and manipulate others. Humorphobia breeds humordoomers, skilled crafters who use subtle techniques to suppress humor in the workplace. Humordoomers are usually unhappy individuals stressed by the dual demands of accountability and limited time constraints; they’re pessimistic leeches that can suck the humergy right out of you. Grown in a petri dish of fear and anger, these folks are threatened by joyful energy and enthusiasm. They often use humor to manipulate others and to maintain a level of control of their world. Their negative humor reflects their unhappy immersion in the confining straits of a workaholic world. Often their techniques are so woven into the fabric of a culture that not only are they unaware of their own webbing effect, their unsuspecting prey are oblivious as well.

Humorphobia and humordoomers create a toxic work environment.   

What strategies do you use to combat these types of beliefs and behaviors?  I have a chapter devoted to this topic in my book, "Using Humor to Maximize Living", however I know creative and caring people have workable ideas.  Would love to hear what you think!