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More laughter = A happier, healthier You

Have you ever been in a “serious” situation and found yourself wanting to laugh?  And knowing that if you allow even the smallest of titters to escape from your mouth that uncontrollable giggling or guffawing will follow?

I had that very experience recently when I attended a presentation about training evaluation.  Not the most exciting topic in the world but one that is of genuine interest to me.  However, I found my mind wandering as the speaker was going through his presentation and the next thing I knew I was fighting the urge to laugh.Laughter

I am not really sure what triggered it.  Perhaps it was the unusual haircut the speaker was sporting.  Perhaps it was the layout of the room, making me feel as though I was back at school.  Or maybe it was the odd squeaking sound that came from the person sitting next to me every time he moved (which was frequently).

Whatever it was, I spent the duration of the presentation stifling what was building up to be an eye-watering, shoulder shuddering laughing fit.  The kind that I remember from childhood when my best friend and I would catch eyes in the classroom and, without having to say or do anything else, would send each other into uncontrollable giggling.  The kind that makes you feel really good.  The best possible release!

So, my question to you is….why do we hold back on laughter?  Why do we sense that some situations are too serious to involve laughter?  What stops us from letting out that belly aching laugh at exactly the moment we feel it building up?

Well, the simple answer is that we learn what is socially acceptable and what is not.  Certainly, there are some situations when laughter would absolutely NOT be appropriate.  However, I would argue that laughter can change the atmosphere of a situation for the better and make you a happier, healthier and more productive you.

How do you feel when you have a really good laugh?  EnergisedHappy? PositiveInspired?  You probably also feel closer to those around you.  It’s as though laughter can break down boundaries.  It eases tension in the air.  It helps people to connect.

I am suggesting that if we allow ourselves and the people around us to indulge in a bit of laughter therapy we can experience all sorts of benefits:

 

  • a sense of well-being due to a rise in feel good chemicals called endorphins
  • an increased level of productivity due to the feelings of energy you get from endorphins
  • less conflict as we step back from the seriousness of a situation and see another side to it
  • more sharing and co-operating as laughter makes us feel closer to those around us (have you noticed how infectious laugher is?)
  • we can learn more as we are more receptive to new information when we are relaxed and having fun
  • and recent research* suggests that laughter also helps to alleviate pain

 

It’s a fact, that laughing is good for you, so here are some thoughts on how you could make it work for you….

  • next time you are running a team meeting, why not show a funny video to kick things off and get the meeting off on a lighter note
  • when you are talking to colleagues or friends and you notice a lot of serious faces around you, do something to make the people around you laugh to lighten the mood
  • or when the mood at home is a bit heavy and you feel everyone would benefit from a bit of a laugh, try just starting to laugh yourself.  The more you laugh the more you will want to keep laughing and that then spreads to the people around you and before you know it…..you are rolling around in hysterics having forgotten all the serious stuff that had been hanging around.

 

Even if you do these things only for a few moments, that can be enough to get you, the people around you and the atmosphere into a place where you can deal with the serious (and not at all funny) business of the day.  A word of warning though….do exercise good judgement, sensitivity and empathy when initiating laughter!

 

Let me finish off with the funniest joke in the UK (according to Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire in 2002):

A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: “That’s the ugliest baby that I’ve ever seen. Ugh!” The woman goes to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: “The driver just insulted me!” The man says: “You go right up there and tell him off—go ahead, I’ll hold your monkey for you.”

 

If you can do better than this, I’ve love it if you’d share your funny jokes by commenting below!

 

*Dunbar, R, Baron, R., Frangou, A., Pearce, E., Van Leeuwen, E., Stow, J., Partridge, G., Macdonald, I., Barra, V., & Van Vugt, M (2012). Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold. Proceedings of the Royal Society-B, 279, 1161-1167. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1373

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