Whenever I run workshops or am doing a facilitation job I always try and incorporate humour. Laughter, whether it be a giggle or one of those great belly laughs, can change the atmosphere in a room from stilted and cold, to dynamic and warm within a few seconds. I often use a video, song or a story to start off a session, and at a recent workshop one of the participants commented that we could not start into the formal proceedings of the day because I had not shown something funny to get us going!
The photo above was taken at the Peter Cullen Trust Science to Policy Leadership Program where I was one of the facilitators along with Stuart (at the back), Leith and Rob. This was a physically and mentally challenging time as we guided our Peter Cullen Trust Fellows through their first week together. Despite the challenges, the week was full of laughter, and I treasure such experiences. Whenever I need a boost, I take out photos like this one that reminds me of the people, the experiences and the laughter – it never fails to put a smile on my face. 🙂
I thought it might be good to find out why laughter and humour are so important, at a personal level I know I feel good when I laugh with others, but does the science support this? Before I answer this question watch this Monty Python skit to remind yourself what laughter is like – I would describe it as an oldie but a goodie!
So what does the science say about laugher? Well, laughter is clinically proven to be one of the simplest and most effective preventative and complementary health and well-being techniques available, having proven positive effects on physical, mental, and social health and well-being.
Researchers Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan at the Loma Linda University in California have investigated the benefits of laughter, and they say that your mind, hormone system and immune system are constantly communicating with one another in ways that impact everything from your mood, to your ability to fend off sickness and disease. Laughter has been linked to health benefits ranging from lower levels of inflammation, to improved blood flow. Importantly, laughter appears to cause all the reciprocal, or opposite, effects of stress. This is because when we laugh we shut down the release of stress hormones like cortisol and trigger the production of feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine, which have all kinds of calming, anti-anxiety benefits. Think of laughter as the yin to stress’s yang.
If you would like to know even more about why laughter is good for you, James May investigates the topic in the video below which I found both entertaining and informative.
So, next time you get a group of people together, think about how you can start the day with some laughter, it not only makes people feel good, but it boosts productivity, feelings of optimism and enables people to think creatively. Siwan 🙂
Happify has a great infographic that summarises all that is talked about here, you can access it at this link ‘how laughter can keep you happy and healthy’.