Are you having a laugh?
At the risk of sounding too much like the late, great Sir Terry Wogan, ‘Is it me…?’ or has life got rather serious recently?
Syria. Trump. Brexit, Celebrity death toll. Debt. NHS crisis. Strikes. …need I go on?
When I set my company up, one of my primary objectives was to have more FUN at work. I don’t apologise for that as an objective, to me it is important that I enjoy what I am doing. So as today is ‘Blue Monday’ – officially the most depressing day of the year – I want to encourage everyone to see and appreciate the importance of fun in the workplace.
Laughter is a natural behaviour for us human beings. It is something we do from a very early age and it provides us with a number of physiological benefits. Yes, laughter releases endorphins into the blood which are the body’s natural painkillers; it also relaxes the body, relieving stress and tension. More than that, it tones our internal muscles, improves respiration and circulation and it helps to boost our immune system making us more resistant to disease. One American company found that their staff sickness days were reduced by half as a result of creating a culture of laughter in their organisation.
The psychological benefits are highly significant too. Laughter encourages positive thinking and creativity, it facilitates learning by increasing memory function, it is a well recognised tool for team-building and enhancing communication and it breaks down barriers as it frequently removes inhibitions.
So, what evolutionary purpose does laughter serve? Why do we have and manifest this strange behaviour?
Well, most theorists agree that it cannot be something that has evolved for self-defence or protection against immediate threat. After all, when we laugh, we close our eyes, open our mouths, the muscles in our legs are less able to function effectively and we make a noise which would draw any predator’s attention directly to us. Hardly the strategy of an effective warrior is it?!
No, most views on the role that laughter plays for animals who display it is that it is an inherently social behaviour. Laughter gives off a powerful sign to others, it tells them that we are relaxed, non-threatening and to that extent it clarifies our intentions. It also enables us to bond with people, to create a union with them as we all signal our comfort, acceptance and shared understanding.
In my company I am frequently working with people who want to improve their connections with others. Sometimes that is by working with individuals and other times it is through promoting whole organisations, their products or services. In each case, the opportunity that laughter provides is a real asset as one of the most positive attributes of laughter is its ability to be infectious. By our own behaviour we can not only enhance our own moods, but also influence those of people around us.
But take it further now as many of us do through technology. We are no longer restricted to geographically close people as we can have the same effect on those who we are connected with virtually.
Think of the volumes of humourous content that gets shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram each day. Even if we cannot be with someone in the same physical space, we can still spread the laughter and its benefits to them. Also, think of the power of advertisements which have contained comedy or laughter…these often raise a smile to us even if we were not feeling jovial before hand, making us feel positively towards the company and helping them to be more memorable.
Laughter and fun serve so many positive functions within us as individuals and as teams. So why don’t we do more of it? On average, children laugh over 500 times a day. Adults…we average just 14 times a day. How depressing is that?
So, however difficult today is, try to make sure you end up having a laugh. If nothing else, it will make people around you wonder what you know that they don’t!