Want to decrease stress, improve your health and even increase your social interaction among colleagues? Then laugh more at work. Yep, that’s right. Laughter isn’t just for comedy clubs or humorous TV shows. Workplace laughter can help you feel better about your job, increase your productivity and even promote stronger relationships. Here’s how to laugh your way to loving your job…
The Benefits of Laughter
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An international research team at Oxford University found that when people laugh hard, the kind that leaves them almost physically exhausted with tears in their eyes, the human body triggers the release of endorphins that help reduce the feeling of pain and promote feelings of general well being. So the next time the project team you’re leading hits what feels like an insurmountable obstacle, find something funny about the situation and then laugh your way to figuring out a creative solution.
Laughter and a sense of humor may also protect against heart attacks by helping prevent heart disease, according to cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The study “found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease.”
Because laughter has been found to lower the level of several stress hormones in the blood, it can also promote a more positive and hopeful attitude. States Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India, and the founder of Laughter Yoga, “It is less likely for a person to succumb to stress and feelings of depression and helplessness, if one is able to laugh away the[ir] troubles.”
Laughter may also serve to socially unite people. Robert R. Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation, found that “we’re thirty times more likely to laugh when we’re with other people than when we’re alone. People who laugh a lot may just have a strong connection to the people around them.”
4 Ways to Add More Laughter to Your Workday
#1 Learn to take yourself less seriously. One way to laugh more at work is to “find ways to take ourselves less seriously”, recommends Michael Miller, M.D., director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
I learned this lesson myself back when I was the only female on the service management team for a defibrillator manufacturer. We were holding an off-site sales training meeting and the group had chosen to wear casual clothes (khaki pants and golf shirts) to make the training more comfortable. Before flying to the meeting location, I laundered several pairs of my khaki pants and packed quickly.
While I was kicking off the training meeting at the front of the room I noticed several people staring at my knees. One person raised their hand and said, “Sorry to interrupt Lisa, but what’s that bulge in your left leg?” When I looked down, he was right. There was a strange bulge just below my left knee. I felt my leg, reached into my left pant leg and pulled out – two fabric softener sheets that were stuck together. I started laughing so hard I almost couldn’t stop. With tears in my eyes I said, “Well thank heavens. I was worried I was actually going to pull out a pair of my underwear, not fabric softener sheets.” That’s when everyone else in the room broke out into laughter and I learned another good lesson…
#2 Make it OK for others to laugh at work. By laughing at myself, I made it OK for everyone in the room to laugh. In retrospect, I had been trying so hard to be professional because I was the only female that I had failed to let my true personality shine through. Being able to laugh at myself in front of others and making it OK for them to laugh in a work situation eased the tension of the training session and helped bring me closer together with my colleagues. During lunch that day we had even more laughter as everyone began sharing their most embarrassing work moments.
#3 Find humor in difficult or stressful situations. Emily C. learned the importance in finding humor during stressful career situations and shared this funny story: “While I was walking out to my car after the interview for the job I have now, I looked down and noticed the underwire from my bra had somehow worked its way out and was poking up from the top of my shirt. I was mortified. Luckily, it was all women interviewing me.”
#4 Attend a Laughter Yoga Club. Laughter Yoga is gaining in popularity in companies and colleges throughout the world. It combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing and was launched back in 1995 by Dr. Madan Kataria in Mumbai, India. According to Dr. Kataria, Laughter Yoga “is a powerful force for improving staff performance at the workplace” by reducing stress. Laughter Yoga Clubs are free for everyone and run by volunteers trained as Laughter Yoga Teachers and Laughter Yoga Leaders.
Bottom Line: Charlie Chaplin once said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” Are you and your colleagues spending enough time laughing during the workday? According to one study, “adults tend to laugh only 15 times per day” whereas “healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day.” Maybe the real secret to loving your job is actually through laughter.
So…a manager walks into a staff meeting carrying a rubber chicken and says…
~ Lisa Quast