Author: David McGrane
File this under stating the bleeding obvious, but it turns out laughter really is good for you - no, seriously.
The science has been applied, the testing and experimenting done, and the evidence is in.
Venerable institutions from the Mayo Clinic to Oxford University have probed exactly why and how, and here’s the punchline.
Laughter is good for us, and laughing more at work has many, MANY advantages.
It doesn’t matter if you are laughing with a colleague, or streaming a show on your break - everything from quiet giggles to out-and-out, throw-back-your-head laughter is doing you good.
Laughing stimulates many of your organs - the motions of laughter, the diaphragm going up and down, our face muscles going up, not down - they relieve stress. PLUS, they enhance how much lovely oxygen-filled air we breath in, which stimulates your heart (of course), your lungs, and your muscles.
Did you know laughing releases endorphins and “happy” hormones like dopamine and serotonin. Yep, the little happiness agents that activate all sorts of positive outcomes! True. But did you know that your body is physically incapable of releasing stress-inducing pheromones at the same time as it releases endorphins? True again, cross my heart!
When we laugh, our brain activity changes in ways that lower our stress response
There’s more, your body actually can’t tell the difference between a real belly laugh, or one that you simply pretend. You can do your best fake Santa belly-laugh - Ho! Ho! Ho! - and it will fire up and then immediately cool down your body’s stress responses. Rapid heart rate, followed by decreased heart rate and blood pressure. After a good laugh, simulated or otherwise, you are more relaxed, more able to get back to work with focus, and a smile.
Would you believe that longterm it can actually improve your immune system? No joke!
The stress of deadlines and sales shortfalls can manifest as chemical reactions - and they’re no joke. The joy of laughter, on the other hand, has been proven to actually release neuropeptides. These little dynamos help fight stress as well as potentially more-serious issues.
Same for pain - be gone!
A little laughing on a regular basis eases pain because laughter causes the body to produce it’s very own painkillers. Nice, huh!
Laughter makes it easier to cope with difficult situations in the office and elsewhere. It also helps you connect with colleagues - never a bad thing and always good for teamwork.
OK, fine, but HOW?
All well and good you say, but just exactly how can you get more laughter into your work day?
Glad you asked!
Surround yourself with a few funny things - cartoons that you find amusing, pictures, screen savers, you get the idea. Watch a funny movie or show the night before, remind yourself about it the next day, see if any of your co-workers saw the same one. Laugh about it together.
“Oh-oh, I did a whoopsie!”
Laugh at yourself - it is not only good for you, it is very endearing. If you mess up, be the first to laugh it off. Remember, laughing is contagious. Everyone around you will be able to move on much healthier and happier.
Don’t laugh, (or do), but why not try putting a tiara and then look at yourself in the mirror? Dare you not to laugh.
Take a month-long Laughter Challenge. How many laughs can you squeeze into every day for a whole month? There are no losers here. Every laugh is health in the bank. Given the months we’ve had, we could all benefit from a month or three with more joviality.
Set yourself an alarm for a laughter break, start with just a couple of minutes and work your way up. Have an another alarm to remind you to get back to work. Research has shown that a well-planned 15-minute break for humor can actually bolster productivity. Fact.
Keep a “What made me laugh today” journal.
Training yourself to find the humor in everyday things, then keeping track of them, will make for more laughter, every. single. day.
Seek out those people who make you laugh, buy them a coffee to thank them for their precious gift, but mainly just hang out with them more. They are good for you. And return the favor, bring jokes to the conversation that will tickle their funny bone, too.
There’s also something called the Laughable app. You can sign up to be alerted when your favorite funny people are guests on podcasts or release a new episode.
Don’t worry if you feel your sense of humor has suffered over the years. Humor can be re-learned. Like any of the muscles it helps, laughing can be built up over time - but start now! Actively seek out the humor in things, and don’t hold back, let out an audible laugh.
No time like the present.
Think of a joke (or look one up) and tell a co-worker. Right now. Tell them in advance that they should laugh, no matter what, because it will be really good for them. And it will.
David McGrane is a consultant working with us at the Job Shop. He’s not the funniest one here, but he’s working on that ;-).