When was the last time you heard roars of laughter in your workplace?
Yesterday (May 7th) was World Laughter Day. Now in it’s 19th year, the international celebration first took place in 1998 in Mumbai and was arranged by Dr Madan Kataria, founder of the worldwide Laughter Yoga movement. Intended to be positive action on world peace, brotherhood and friendship through laughter, the Laughter Yoga movement has grown significantly with now over 6000 laughter clubs across five continents.
Now I’m a big fan of laughing – in good times and bad. We’ve all had those days where we’ve said ‘if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry’ and I choose laughing every time. But what is it about laughing that makes us feel so good, even amidst life’s biggest adversities?
Both the psychological and physical benefits of laughter are well documented. When we start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten our load mentally, reducing stress levels and improving our mood through increased endorphin release, it actually induces physical changes in our body including improved blood flow, boosted immune, organ stimulation and even pain relief.
Laughing has a host of positive social impacts too. It makes you look attractive and approachable and draws people to you. It indicates confidence and the ability to cope if one is able to promote smiling and laughing in challenging situations. It also releases pent up emotions and breaks down social barriers – often described as ‘breaking the ice’.
Based on all this evidence, the positive role of smiling and laughing in the workplace seems obvious. In fact, a study from Loma Linda University School of medicine showed that laughter actually reduces levels of cortisol, dopac and epinephrine – all stress hormones that block creativity and reduce productivity. However, this is still often forgotten in the corporate environment, proven by the YouGov Big Work survey last year, in which nearly half (47%) of UK employees said their employer did not create a ‘fun and healthy environment’ to work in.
Organisations can benefit significantly from creating an environment for employees that encourages playful socialising and laughter between colleagues. It promotes creativity, releases tension, energises staff, provides perspective and improves team-building. When people laugh together, they bond and this is true in both good times and bad.
So why don’t you do something different and celebrate World Laughter Day in your organisation this year? Encourage staff to share funny stories, anecdotes and video clips. Create a game or contest in the office that makes people laugh. Or perhaps play a silly prank on your team! And don’t stop there – make fun and laughing a permanent fixture in your workplace – create a space for people to get together, take time out and socialise, start a comedy board in the office for humourous staff quotes, or even launch a fun thought for the day. You could even create a humour team with the responsibility of bringing laughter and fun into everyone’s lives each week. If you’re a people manager or a business leader, lead by example and start smiling and making people laugh more. Begin to think about ways to promote fun amongst your teams and use humour in your communications. The positive effects will be instant.
As Mark Twain said “the human race has one really powerful weapon, and that is laughter.” Lets use it!