In our employee mental health and wellbeing plans, we’re often focused on mitigating existing issues such as absence management, long-term sickness and dealing with mental health challenges.
With increased remote working it can be harder to find quality social time with colleagues and create a support network that makes work fun. But that social aspect is critical to ensuring people feel invested in the workplace and feel a sense of belonging. It gives us a sense of proportion when things go wrong and something enjoyable and stress-free to look forward to from our time at work.
Whether you are listening for the punchline, or watching a scene unfold into comedic disaster it keeps you in the moment, not in the past or worrying about the future.
Is there a link between laughter and wellbeing?
I recently went on holiday on my own. Over dinner I met a group of like-minded ladies and over the week we laughed a lot. We laughed so much it hurt. I started to notice that people were commenting on how relaxed I looked and I was finding lots of things amusing.
The more we laughed, the more we found other things funny. I started to get curious about the impact of laughter on my health and on the wellbeing of the group as a whole.
I discovered that there have been many studies researching the impact of laughter on health and the conclusions show that laughter may be the best medicine.
Five wellbeing benefits to laughter
1. Provides pain relief
Have you ever laughed so much that it hurts? Real belly laughing releases endorphins and a study by University of Oxford has shown that this increases pain tolerance.
This study monitored people watching comedy and interestingly noted that there was an even better effect if comedy was experienced as a group.
2. Reduces stress and boosts your immune system
Laughter increases blood oxygen and blood circulation as the act of laughing pushes the air from your lungs. Research has shown that laughing out loud boosts your immune system as well as it decreases your stress hormones. In fact, the impact of reduced stress levels can even be created by ‘fake laughter’ as smiling and trying to laugh starts the process.
3. It’s good for your heart
Studies have shown that laughter decreases pulse wave velocity and can reduce stiffness in your arteries. This can have a positive impact on cardiovascular disease.
4. Improves your chances of getting pregnant
One 2011 study of women undergoing in vitro fertilisation showed that those who were entertained by a clown were 16% more likely to get pregnant than those who had not been in the clown group.
5. Living a happy life
Laughter lightens our mood and makes it easier to cope with challenging situations. It also keeps us in the present. When we are watching comedy or laughing with friends it is a two-way interaction that requires our attention.
Whether you are listening for the punchline, or watching a scene unfold into comedic disaster it keeps you in the moment, not in the past or worrying about the future. Being present in the here and now is a way of counteracting anxiety and alleviating depression.
How to find more laughter in your life
Create a ‘fun file’
When you hear something funny write it down. Write down funny things that have happened to you. Collect funny pictures or links to YouTube videos. Create a fun file for when you need it. Even better – share your fun file with your friends or colleagues.
Here is something from my file. I was in the queue for a gig at a music festival. In the background you could hear the musician practising. Then it all went quiet. Someone in the queue behind me said, “Now he is practising the interval!”
If we are looking for fun, we are more likely to find it.
Laugh at yourself
We’ve all done embarrassing things, but these moments (perhaps after some healing time) are often our most funniest experiences too.
Share these moments with others and share the love. By allowing yourself to show your human side you give others permission to do the same and here is where connection is created.
Look for the humour in life
Life is full of irony and absurdity. Like all things that we focus on, energy flows where attention goes. If we are looking for fun, we are more likely to find it.
Also, when something negative happens, try to find a funny angle that will make yourself and others laugh.
I was once on stage at a conference talking about stress reduction when the microphone died. It took an age to get it sorted out, so I tried to mime the presentation to keep everyone engaged and hopefully amused. The first slide went well – a stressed women. The next slide was somewhat harder… have you ever tried miming a table of facts?!
What does this mean for you?
Do you need an excuse to have a laugh? Maybe the best medicine for this stressful and changing world is to put having a laugh in your diary.
Whether it’s a boxset binge or a comedy night with friends put it in the diary first before the never-ending to-do list takes over.
What does this mean for your workplace?
When it comes to your workplace health and wellbeing plans, what fun can you encourage? Online cocktail making, art classes, social visits to comedy clubs and laughter yoga all create fun memories. When times get hard, friends at work could be the one thing that means people stay and see it through.