Putting Humor Into Practice After burning out, I had to learn how to take care of myself first so that I could help others. After two weeks in the hospital, I left with orders for continued medical care, physical therapy, counseling, and cardiac rehabilitation, which included programs about nutrition, meditation, and exercise. A recovering ... First Person on the Last Page
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First Person on the Last Page  |   August 01, 2007
Putting Humor Into Practice
Author Notes
  • John Murphy, is past president of the Massachusetts Speech-Hearing-Language Association, a past ASHA Legislative Councilor, and a life coach teaching grown-up children how to use humor, laughter, fun, and play. He can be reached at humortalks@aol.com.
    John Murphy, is past president of the Massachusetts Speech-Hearing-Language Association, a past ASHA Legislative Councilor, and a life coach teaching grown-up children how to use humor, laughter, fun, and play. He can be reached at humortalks@aol.com.×
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Development / Swallowing, Dysphagia & Feeding Disorders / Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Older Adults & Aging / School-Based Settings / Healthcare Settings / Normal Language Processing / First Person on the Last Page
First Person on the Last Page   |   August 01, 2007
Putting Humor Into Practice
The ASHA Leader, August 2007, Vol. 12, 55. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.12102007.55
The ASHA Leader, August 2007, Vol. 12, 55. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.12102007.55
After burning out, I had to learn how to take care of myself first so that I could help others. After two weeks in the hospital, I left with orders for continued medical care, physical therapy, counseling, and cardiac rehabilitation, which included programs about nutrition, meditation, and exercise. A recovering cardiac colleague put it succinctly: “a great life—no romance, no excitement, no driving, no french fries!”
To combat depression, I started a program of bibliotherapy in which I read two books a week, one about humor and a second about motivation. These books became my support group, along with my wife, two children, and our two cats, all of whom taught me how to think of myself first. The fall of 2007 marks 20 years since beginning the bibliotherapy program and I have completed 2,000 books, a thousand of them about using humor to heal, and another thousand about making major changes in my life.
Three months after my heart attack, I returned to work armed with books stuffed with hundreds of pieces of paper that held thousands of behavior-changing thoughts. As I resumed working with 30 high school students with disabilities as well as geriatric residents in long-term care facilities, some of these ideas, described below, transformed my practice.
First, my stress was caused by the way I used to think. It’s easy to focus on endless paperwork, increasing caseloads, inflexible schedules, lack of support, and little preparation time. I now tell myself at least hourly that if I change the way I think, I will change my life. Now, I focus on the joys in my life and I stop at least twice a day to celebrate them.
I’ve trained myself to have fun. I don’t try to be funny but to just have fun. How does one find fun? I try to look for fun people, fun places, games, food, magazines, clothing stores, TV sitcoms, and hobbies. I choose to find fun and it happens.
I learned the greatest secret to reduce stress and be happier, and it actually improved my treatment. I learned how to laugh at myself, and began to see life differently and to notice how little control I had over things around me—yet how much control I had over myself.
As a more relaxed speech-language pathologist, I am able to give better treatments. I make sure that clients and coworkers get a smile, a kind word, and if appropriate, a handshake, a pat on the arm, or a high-five each day.
I have adopted our high school motto: “Make it a good day, or not—the choice is yours.”
References and Resources

In response to reader requests, below is a bibliography, highlighting some of the 2,000 books I have read as well as other humor resources.

Humor

Johnson, B. (1990). Pain is inevitable but misery is optional: So, stick a geranium in your hat and be happy! Dallas, TX: Word Publishers.
Johnson, B. (1990). Pain is inevitable but misery is optional: So, stick a geranium in your hat and be happy! Dallas, TX: Word Publishers.×
Klein, A. (1989) The healing power of humor: Techniques for getting through loss, setbacks, upsets, disappointments, difficulties, trials, tribulations and all that not-so-funny stuff. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc.
Klein, A. (1989) The healing power of humor: Techniques for getting through loss, setbacks, upsets, disappointments, difficulties, trials, tribulations and all that not-so-funny stuff. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc.×
Kuhn, C. (2003). The fun factor: Unleashing the power of humor at home and on the job (2nd ed.). Louisville, KY: Minerva Books.
Kuhn, C. (2003). The fun factor: Unleashing the power of humor at home and on the job (2nd ed.). Louisville, KY: Minerva Books.×
Levy, L. (1999). Undress your stress: 30 curiously fun ways to take off tension. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks.
Levy, L. (1999). Undress your stress: 30 curiously fun ways to take off tension. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks.×
McGhee, P. E. (1994). How to develop your sense of humor: An 8 step humor development training program. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.
McGhee, P. E. (1994). How to develop your sense of humor: An 8 step humor development training program. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.×
Stress Reduction/Self Help
Baker, D. (2003). What Happy People Know: How the New Science of Happiness Can Change Your Life for the Better. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Baker, D. (2003). What Happy People Know: How the New Science of Happiness Can Change Your Life for the Better. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.×
Canfield, J. & Switzer, J. (2005). The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. New York: HarperCollins.
Canfield, J. & Switzer, J. (2005). The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. New York: HarperCollins.×
Kirshenbaum, M. (2004). Everything Happens For A Reason: Finding the true Meaning of the Events in Our Lives. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Kirshenbaum, M. (2004). Everything Happens For A Reason: Finding the true Meaning of the Events in Our Lives. New York: Three Rivers Press.×
Luskin, F. & Pelletier, K. (2005). Stress Free for Good: 10 Scientifically Proven Life Skills for Health and Happiness. New York: HarperCollins.
Luskin, F. & Pelletier, K. (2005). Stress Free for Good: 10 Scientifically Proven Life Skills for Health and Happiness. New York: HarperCollins.×
Winget, L. (2000). The Simple Way To Success. Paradise Valley, AZ: Win Publications. See www.larrywinget.com.
Winget, L. (2000). The Simple Way To Success. Paradise Valley, AZ: Win Publications. See www.larrywinget.com.×
Other Humor Resources
Going Bonkers? The self-help magazine with a sense of humor.
Going Bonkers? The self-help magazine with a sense of humor.×
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August 2007
Volume 12, Issue 10