The Importance of Laughter
For a long time, many organizations dismissed laughter at work as a distraction from getting the job done. Fortunately, this view is gradually changing as people come around to realizing that laughter is an important component of wellness.
Laughter reduces blood pressure, oxygenates the blood, and relaxes the muscles. Furthermore, it triggers the release of endorphins and produces a general sense of well-being. And you’ve heard the stats: On average, children laugh 400 times per day. Adults don’t even make it to forty. Even twenty times a day is a lot for many adults.
Of course, there are reasons laughter is such a rarity in many workplaces. Some people view laughter as inappropriate and “unbusiness-like,” even when something genuinely funny happens. Some people worry about what others will think, so they suppress their laughter. Some people work in cultures where laughter, if not exactly forbidden, isn’t encouraged. And many people, sadly, work in deadly serious workplaces where humor just isn’t on the agenda.
Sophie Scott, a professor who studies laughter and the brain, points out that laughter, unlike other emotions, is a very social emotion. It’s used widely in conversation and play.
Laughter is contagious. We laugh much more when we’re with friends than when we’re alone, and we can see evidence of this in the brain. And strangely, even tragedy sometimes generates laughter; this podcast describes why we sometimes laugh at even the grimmest of subjects, such as cancer and death.
Of course, you can’t just turn a somber, serious workplace into a ha-ha factory. Some people recommend lightening the mood by having fun supplies in the break room, such as Legos, dominoes, Silly Putty, and Slinkys. Some display their favorite Dilbert comic strips or creative images (such as this one, perfect for project managers) that others can enjoy as they pass by.
Actually, the possibilities of things to share with coworkers to inject a bit of levity and lightheartedness seem endless. For example, the members of an orchestra tried an experiment in which they swapped instruments with each other and attempted to play them to the best of their ability. Can you listen to the result without laughing?
If these examples amused you, share them with your coworkers. Every little giggle counts.