The Many Benefits of Laughter Can Be Good for Business
Be Thankful for Laughter!
Laughter can be profound. I am not entirely sure that only humans laugh, but philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter." Less profound, perhaps, but more pointed are the words of Danish comedian Victor Borge who said, "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." Personally, I am more inclined to agree with comedian/filmmaker Woody Allen who says, "I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose." Now, that makes me laugh!
A laugh is a primitive and primal release, not unlike a yawn. Whatever provokes the laugh, the release is spontaneous and stress relieving. You would laugh at the research that tries to determine where the brain's laugh center is or the work of existential philosophers who find laughter is the human response to existential loneliness and mortality. Talk about over-thinking something so good for us!
Laughter is good for our health
Let's begin with the fact that laughter is good for us. If you need to know why, consider this:
Laughter does increase blood flow.
Laughter reduces stress because it releases hormones that reduce adrenaline.
Laughter exercises muscles and as a result improves respiration.
Laughter reduces pain by distracting the party from the pain.
Laughter improves cardiac exercise and, thereby, reduces blood pressure.
There is even some evidence that laughter helps fight cancer by increasing cells that fight tumors.
Laughter is good for us in other ways
Less measurable are other results of a regular hearty laugh:
Laughter creates a positive frame of mind. It provides an alternative to stress and guilt, reducing them to simple distractions.
Laughter is contagious. When you laugh, others do, too. When you laugh loud, others will laugh loud, and when you laugh long, they will instinctively follow your lead. Friends like a laugher, in part, because the lead laugher helps reduce their stress as well.
Laughter will change the way you look at things. It may not solve problems, but it will put them in perspective. Laughter will reduce the threat and challenge by slighting the fear.
Laughter improves your self-image and the way you are perceived by others. A frequent hearty laugh is a sign of someone in control of things, someone with confidence enough to keep the wolves from the door, the barbarians from the gate, someone who scoffs at the fight or flight instinct. (Of course, a weak laugh, a titter or giggle, is not going to pull this off.)
Laughter is free!
The business of laughter
This no-cost feature is among the reasons businesses, organizations, and institutions are pursuing laughs. Consider the return on investment in the following results of laughter:
Laughter improves general health, a major cost concern for business.
Laughter improves a "can do" optimism, making each laugher more likeable.
Laughter increases communication and self-confidence, connecting and binding co-workers.
Laughter pushes criticism aside and diffuses conflict.
Laughter stimulates the part of the brain responsible for creativity.
Laughter is cost-effective, requiring no equipment, little time, and fast spreading results
So, where are we going with this "laughter bonanza?" Businesses large and small are alert to thevalue of laughter.
Some businesses are appointing "humor directors" with the corporate wide personnel responsibility for making people laugh - and reducing the cost of human resources and human capital. There are a number of strategies they can follow on the large scale and some you can implement on the small scale.
Calendar a laugh time and keep this appointment. Set 15 minutes aside, perhaps after lunch when you have a sugar rush or around 2:00 PM when your blood sugar dips. Laugh out loud, where it is appropriate, and maybe join your spouse on the phone, or your child or pet in the yard.
Make humor part of your presentations. Now, the record shows that audiences are not very responsive to jokes in the classic format or set-up and punch line. However, everyone is attentive to an anecdote, especially one that is a little self-deprecating or includes key members of the audience.
Tip: (Also, remember that most "jokes" are told at someone's expense. It is in the nature of a joke to be offensive. So, avoid those types of jokes!)
Use humorous videos or clips from sources like YouTube. The clips should be funny to all. They need to have a clear tie to the subject; otherwise, they are recognized and dismissed as gratuitous.
Share cartoons if they are appropriate and clearly related to the topic. In small groups, you can solicit laughter in the feedback. In large groups, you may flash a series of cartoons in rapid sequence. I have had luck using cartoons without captions and asking the group to fill in the blank.
Laughter can be provoked in social settings without usual resort to humor. Toss a Frisbee around the office, play a modified game of tag, hold a treasure hunt. Host contests for baby pictures, prom pictures, and/or worst bridesmaid dress.
Introduce a class in laughter yoga. Laughter yoga is a worldwide movement with lofty goals of world peace and human connection. But, putting that aside, it has proven very effective in business settings. The idea here is to work with groups to approach laughter as a group exercise. It plays on eye contact and the idea that there is a 6 year old inside each of us. The plan is to initiate fake laughter, because the body and brain do not discriminate between fake and real, and bank on the contagion in laughter to spread into real laughs. The slight disadvantage in this is that it requires trained and certified leaders.
In short, there is no downside to laughter. Just think of the alternative! Be thankful for laughter and use it more frequently; it will not run out.