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
Tuesday, 29 January 2013 16:49
The healing power of laughter is something that laughter coach Allison Marcotte is very familiar with. Having gone through some tough times of her own in recent years, including the heartbreaking deaths of loved ones, she is well-aware of its ability to help people cope with life’s tragedies and absurdities.
“If I hadn’t had the laughter, I’d probably be at the mental health ward,” Marcotte said, as she went on to describe her changing personality over the years.
“I was a very serious person,” she recalled. “I would laugh when all the work was done. So I didn’t laugh a lot, and then about four or five years ago when I got introduced to Laughter Yoga, it changed my life.
Mentally, laughing elevates mood, improves brain functioning and communication skills, facilitates learning, increases creativity and rapport with others and replaces negative emotions with positive ones.
Physically, it reduces stress and anger, increases energy and endorphin levels, protects the heart, lowers blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, improves blood circulation, digestion and respiration, relaxes the muscles and decreases anxiety.
“They say 10 minutes of laughter is like 30 minutes on a rowing machine,” Marcotte noted. “I always say to people, ‘What would you rather do, laugh or work out?’”
“It changed my life for the better, and so that’s kind of why I’m here every Thursday night, regardless of whether there’s one or 21 of us — because to me, if I can help make one person’s life a little bit better, then I’ve served my purpose.”
Full article can be read here http://www.paherald.sk.ca/Local/News/2012-12-27/article-3147755/Laughter-yoga-more-about-laughs-than-yoga/1
By AmyT on October 6, 2010
Yoga might seem intimidating to you, with all the bodily twists and turns. But there is a new kind of yoga that doesn’t involve any downward dogs or cobra stances. It’s called Laughter Yoga, and it’s a global movement. I kid you not. It’s based on the idea that laughter allows more oxygen into the body and brain, creating healthy effects.
Caroline Sheehan, a 24-year-old PWD and ardent yoga practitioner, recently introduced Laughter Yoga to a group of ladies in the ACT1 Diabetes support group in New York City. After hearing about this unique yoga session in the diabetes community, I simply had to learn more about what Laughter Yoga can do, specifically for us PWDs.
A Guest Post by Caroline Sheehan, self-titled “Diabetic Do-Gooder”
It’s a Monday night in Manhattan, and people are gathered for yoga class. Some are dressed in sweatpants, others in business attire. They begin class by clapping and chanting “Ho ho, ha ha ha!” They drive around invisible motorcycles while laughing. They pretend to be hulking, guffawing sumo wrestlers. They simulate arguing with each other as they laugh… and then they waddle around like penguins.
“Hold up!” you’re thinking. “This is YOGA?”
It is, but not the pretzel-twisting, sweat-drenching, ommm-muttering type that most people think of when they hear the word “yoga.” This is Laughter Yoga, brainchild of a medical doctor from India named Madan Kataria. He developed a way to make people laugh more by eschewing jokes in favor of laughter exercises, deep breathing, laughter meditation, and relaxation. In the fifteen years since laughter yoga began, it has grown into a worldwide phenomenon. (Watch the John Cleese video if you need some visuals.)
So why laugh? Studies have shown that laughter decreases cortisol, boosts endorphins, and increases immunoglobulin-A, a key chemical in the immune system arsenal. Laughter has also been shown to improve blood flow, which scientists speculate can lower risk of cardiovascular disease. People have also attested that laughter can strengthen social bonds, ease significant pain, dispel grief, clear airways for asthmatics, relieve stress, and bring a deep sense of peace.
I first heard about Laughter Yoga in 2009, when my college’s mental health awareness group sponsored a session. I went in intrigued, and came out amazed. My face and abs hurt from laughing so hard; I was both exhausted and exhilarated. I became certified as a Laughter Yoga leader shortly after, and upon moving to New York City I started both attending and leading sessions regularly.
Laughter Yoga isn’t for everyone, but it’s been an absolute gift for me. I’ve learned to laugh away the pain of stubbed toes and fingersticks. I’ve seen a room full of rambunctious elementary schoolers with ADHD laugh themselves to exhaustion, and seniors with dementia open up and laugh for the first time in weeks. Laughter Yoga has also been a remarkably powerful force in my diabetes management. The activity itself doesn’t lower my blood sugar — although one study found lower post-prandial blood sugars among Type 2 diabetics who attended a comedy show compared to those who sat through a boring lecture. For me, laughter helps in a few different ways:
• I laugh when infusion set needles sting extra hard. It’s totally fake, short barks of HA HA HA, but it snuffs out the pain better than my previous reaction of choice (which involved a lot of hissing and obscenities).
• I laugh at frustrating blood sugars. A few laughter yoga exercises teach us to let go and laugh about things outside our control — e.g., the bus leaving without you, a broken vase, the stock market, etc. After learning to snicker on the subway platform instead of getting exasperated at slow trains, I got to thinking about what else in my life is outside my control that I get unnecessarily stressed about. And after a day of infuriating BG readings, I thought: Just laugh. I forced a “ha.” Then, a chuckle. I made myself laugh until the anger began to dissipate — and then, I was pleasantly surprised to discover, it was hard to make myself stop. I cannot rearrange the past and change that number on my meter, just as I have no power to make the trains come faster. What good will come of twisting myself up in knots of fury? I take note of my blood sugar and adjust for the future, of course. I can still be peeved about it. But now, I laugh more — and I really do feel calmer about the rollercoasters.
• Laughter yoga teaches me to cope with greater stresses as well. I have made myself laugh while paying $360 at the pharmacy for supplies, at lost sleep from 2 AM low blood sugars, and when I had 3 ultrasounds in one day because my kidneys were going awry. One of the guiding principles of Laughter Yoga is “fake it ’til you make it.” There are no jokes in Laughter Yoga, no stand-up, no comedy. Everyone starts off with fake laughter until, through silliness and eye contact and the pure contagion of laughter, you start laughing for real. Many people report feeling happier at the end of the session than the beginning. One session leader I know describes it as “body-mind” medicine. We don’t laugh as a response to hearing something funny or being happy. We laugh first — and then feel happiness. It’s because of this that I can laugh at diabetes. Of course there are times when I think, “This sucks so much that I REFUSE to laugh about it right now”….but it never fails to relax me and rejigger my perspective when I do.
I’m not suggesting that we all stop worrying about our blood sugars, or that we shouldn’t take diabetes seriously. But we live with this disease every single day, and we’re going to keep living with it — and dealing with its daily hassles — for years to come. Given that… aren’t we going to drive ourselves crazy if we don’t laugh about it? Martin at Diabetically Speaking recently wrote a moving post about diabetes burnout and quoted Bill Cosby: “Once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” Laughing at diabetes, even when it isn’t funny, helps me to live with it and keep on going.
Laughing at diabetes also gets me in Time magazine. Check out the scan, courtesy of the official Laughter Yoga website, and you can spot me in the bottom row, second from right (along with two other pics, but they’re a bit trickier). Ha ha HA!
If you’d like to try Laughter Yoga for yourself, go to the official LY website and click on “Find Clubs” or “Find Leaders” to search by geographic location. For NYC residents, I can vouch for the fabulous-ness of two laughter clubs: Monday nights at 7:30 with Dr. Alex Eingorn, and Wednesday evenings at 5:30 with Vishwa Prakash. I can also vouch for the fabulous-ness of my future Brooklyn laughter club… once I find a space to hold it in.
Wow, Caroline. Thank you for bringing the fabulous-ness. And the smiles.