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It has been estimated that 80% of illness is stress-related. And, it has also been suggested that humor and outright laughter are two of the most powerful weapons in the healing arsenal. Laughter is a universal expression – a language of its own. It's natural, contagious, good for your health and it’s even great exercise - it takes the use of 93 muscles to laugh out loud.

Laughter also breaks down barriers, brings people together and allows us to tackle tough issues more effectively and creatively.

So, if you've lost or misplaced the ability, or simply can't find a reason to laugh, I look forward to hearing that this month’s feature story – The MANY Benefits of Laughter – has inspired you to find at least 10 minutes a day to devote to its pure joy.

J.

 


     
 

Learning to enjoy our lives is one of the greatest challenges we face as adults. And, it is also the single most important thing we can accomplish. Yet, many of us continue to struggle through life without feeling well-balanced and joyful. Ergo another round of self-help books that promise us the life we want, the one that we will REALLY love. Amazingly, many of us overlook the simple, natural act that contributes enormously to fulfilling the promise of a happy, healthy life. Laughter.

There are countless ways and many rewards to regularly adding laughter to our lives. Here are but a few:

1. Laughter Contributes to a Healthy, Youthful Body.
Laughter is health-giving and stress-reducing. “It strengthens the body as it pumps the heart and muscles of the abdomen, chest, shoulders, and neck,” says William F. Fry, M.D., a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University Medical School. Laughter also stimulates the brain, ventilates the lungs, works as a healing agent for the body’s stress hormones, releases tension in the diaphragm and relieves pressure on the liver and other internal organs. Medical experts have determined that laughter boosts the immune system by increasing natural disease-fighting killer cells and lowering blood pressure. In fact, according to a Loma Linda University study, thirty minutes after 20 medical students laughed through a video of a well-known comedian, their disease-fighting white blood cells increased by 25 percent. Laughter is also rejuvenating. As George Burns put it, "You can't help growing older, but you can help growing old. By using humor we can prevent a hardening of our attitudes."

2. Laughter Restores the Mind.
Our busy and complex minds become quieter and more manageable as a result of at least a few good laughs a day. In fact, laughter relieves excess emotional and mental baggage as it opens our energy channels. Laughter brings us into the present, eliminating – in the moment – painful memories and burdens. It helps people problem-solve, enlarge their thinking and feel really alive. Laughter also increases intellectual performance and boosts information retention. "If we took what we now know about laughter and bottled it, it would require FDA approval," says Lee S. Berk, PhD, leader of the Laughter Study and Assistant Professor of Pathology at Loma Linda's School of Medicine.

3. Laughter Improves Job Performance.
Laughter is a great coping mechanism as it helps us deal with new learning, changes and challenges in the workplace. Laughter opens the way for added perspective and helps us deal with the stress of not-so-funny stuff. In fact, studies show that laughter may just be the best prescription for optimal workplace performance. When executed in an appropriate manner and in the proper context, humor and resulting laughter are powerful workplace tools that can be used to minimize tension, improve morale, build concentration and increase coping skills, teamwork and productivity.

4. Laughter Awakens Creativity and Imagination.
One study found that laughter may improve job performance particularly with work that involves creativity and problem-solving that requires more than one possible answer. Allan Filipowicz, Harvard Ph.D. candidate in Organizational Behavior, showed his students either a short comedy tape (a Bill Cosby clip or the movie ‘Liar, Liar’) or a neutral video. He then asked them to build out of styrofoam a bridge or tower that was as long or high and as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Filipowicz found that the men who viewed the funny film became more alert after watching the comedy clips, sparking creativity and, thus, executing better, more imaginative designs than those who viewed the neutral tapes.

5. Laughter Can Be a Lifesaver.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has attributed at least two-thirds of one year’s 41,000 traffic accident deaths to road rage. Instead of risking anger or negative emotions on your daily commute, laugh your way to work with a humorous book-on-tape or comedy recording. Search for amusing things to laugh at along the way. Tune into NPR’s ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me’, ‘Says Who’, ‘Prairie Home Companion,’ ‘Car Talk or anything else that will reduce driving tensions. It’s tough to get caught up in road rage when you laughing out loud.

6. One Hundred Laughs a Day Provide a Total Feel-Better Experience.
While the average child laughs 300 times a day, it’s a safe bet that the average adult laughs a whole lot less. Yet, research shows that – along with stimulating the immune system, decreasing stress hormones and increasing endorphins - 100 laughs a day provide the equivalent physical benefits of riding a stationary bike for 15 minutes or spending 10 minutes on the rowing machine. Laughter, optimism, and relaxation can literally makes us feel better by enabling us to cope more successfully with tasks at hand and to resist negativity in our surroundings.

7. Taking Laughter Seriously Releases Pain.
Laughter rebalances the chemistry of stress, creates renewed perspective and reminds us of the bigger picture. And, when we allow laughter to bubble up to the surface, we can more readily release or transform pain, emotional distress and tension according to mirthful consultant and trainer Ed Dunkleblau, PhD. This consultant - along with a growing number of psychologists - has come to view humor and laughter as powerful therapeutic tools. Ones that should be taken quite seriously.

8. Looking for Laugher Works.
Consciously looking for reasons to laugh is often the thing that makes it just happen. The key is to put into place invitations for laughter. Try a cartoon-a-day calendar or regularly listen to a comedy tapes and videos. Look for humor everywhere - on signs, in people’s behavior, in the silly mistakes you make. Or, ignore all the bad news and look for a few laughs as you read your daily newspaper. Believe me, you’ll find them. Here are a few real examples:

Publicize your business absolutely free! Send $6.
Marijuana Issue Sent To A Joint Committee.
Open House - Body Shapers Toning Salon. Free coffee & donuts.
Air Head Fired.
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks.
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery. Hundreds Dead.
Man Struck by Lightning Faces Battery Charge.
Teacher Strikes Idle Kids.
Exercise Equipment: Queen size mattress & box spring - $175.
Free Puppies: 1/2 cocker spaniel -1/2 sneaky neighbor's dog.
For Sale: Complete 45-volume set of Encyclopedia Britannica. $1,000.00 or best offer. No longer needed. Got married last weekend. Wife knows everything.
And, this classic:



9. Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine.
While it’s difficult to measure the benefits of laughter, a number of clinical studies have helped verify the adage that ‘laughter is the best medicine.’ Dr. Michael R. Wasserman, president and chief medical officer of GeriMed Of America, Inc., a primary care physician management company for seniors says, "A few years ago I came down with pneumonia, pulled out videotapes of 'I Love Lucy' reruns and laughed myself back to good health. In his longitudinal study of what made for "success" in life, Dr. George Vaillant discovered that humor is one of life's key maturing/coping mechanisms that ensures health and longevity.

10. Laughter. Don’t Live Without.
Laughter is an effective way to improve morale and build understanding and positive relationships at work and at home. Generally, people who readily laugh have a better sense of well-being and more control of their lives. Their laughter engenders good health, regularly stimulates their immune systems, reduces stress and helps balance the body's natural energy fields. In short, individuals who reward themselves with laughter ensure their own sanity, vitality and resourcefulness as they add energy and enthusiasm to their lives.



 


 
 

It was easy enough to hope and love and have faith, but what about laughter? Nothing is less funny than being flat on your back with all the bones in your spine and joints hurting. A systematic program was indicated. A good place to begin, I thought, was with amusing movies. Allen Funt, producer of the spoofing television program “Candid Camera,” sent films of some of his CC classics, along with a motion-picture projector. The nurse was instructed in its use. We were even able to get our hands on some old Marx Brothers films. We pulled down the blinds and turned on the machine.

It worked. I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep. When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion-picture projector again and, not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free sleep interval. Sometimes, the nurse read to me out of a trove of humor books…

How scientific was it to believe that laughter – as well as the positive emotions in general – was effecting my body chemistry for the better? If laughter did in fact have a salutary effect on the body’s chemistry, it seemed at least theoretically likely that it would enhance the system’s ability to fight …

Careful readers of my book, however, knew that laughter was just a metaphor for the entire range of the positive emotions. Hope, faith, love, will to live, cheerfulness, humor, creativity, playfulness, confidence, great expectations - all these, I believed had therapeutic value.

*Norman Cousins is often described as the man who laughed his way back to health. This, of course, is a simplified explanation of the controversial healing method the esteemed, longtime editor of the Saturday Review employed when he was diagnosed in the mid-1960’s with ankylosing spondylitis, a serious collagen illness which meant the connective tissue in the spine was disintegrating. Cousins was given a one-in-five hundred change of recovering by a specialist. Almost completely paralyzed, given only a few months to live, Cousins ordered himself checked out of the hospital. He moved into a hotel room and began taking extremely high doses of vitamin C and also exposed himself to equally high doses of humor. Using his own regimen of nutritional and emotional support systems as opposed to traditional methods of treatment along with his own powers of laughter, courage and tenacity, he won his battle against this disease and recovered completely.




 


 
 

It's never too late to have a happy childhood. – Anonymous.

Healthy, non-ridiculing and connecting laughter provides physiological, psychological and spiritual benefits you probably never realized or imagined.

We are born with the gift of laughter - it's being serious that we learn. So, learn to laugh, and live, all over again.

Dr. Annette Goodheart



 


 
 

We need to laugh more and seek the stress reducing humor in our everyday lives. Laughter is the human gift for coping and for survival. Laughter ringing, laughter pealing, laughter roaring, laughter bubbling. Chuckling. Giggling. Snickering. Snorting. These are the sounds of soul saving laughter which springs from our emotional core and helps us feel better, see things more clearly, and creatively weigh and use our options. Though triggered by a wide variety of things which are both funny and not so funny, of most importance is the experience of the wonderful healing power which is unleashed every time we laugh. We need to laugh more.

  1. Practice laughing 5 min/day.
  2. Share your embarrassing moments with other people.
  3. Learn to play with things that are serious like work, social issues, money.
  4. Laugh with other people when they laugh.
  5. Wear a smile. It puts you closer to laughing.
  6. Seek out entertainment which makes you laugh.
  7. Amuse yourself with your own sense of humor.
  8. Buy and listen daily to a tape of laughter, a laugh box, or a laughing toy.
  9. Cultivate your innate playfulness.
Enda Junkins, www.laughtertherapy.com.

 


 
 

Managing Laughter on the Job.

Question:  As a Corporate Director and Supervisor of a staff of 30, I have encouraged my people to have some fun on the job and regularly get a good laugh. However, it seems that a few are taking advantage of the daily fun quotient or are inserting inappropriate humor into the workplace. How do I handle this negative stuff without losing the basic premise of keeping it a little lightened up at work?

Answer:  Research indicates that positive humor in the workplace produces increased productivity, enhanced teamwork, improved esprit de corps and can promote mental health and physical well-being. In fact, creating a culture that includes open laughter has been found to increase employee satisfaction ratings when evaluating managers and supervisors. So, you are totally right to encourage your staffers to add humor and laugher into their day. However, the quest for laughter in the workplace can easily backfire if no boundaries are established.

Humor offers tremendous physical and mental health benefits, yet it also carries the risk of offending. Generally speaking, most people want to be appropriate but need parameters that help them in determining just how far to go in search of a laugh. It is, therefore, advisable to put into place some humor guidelines. In other words, laughter in the workplace is healthy so it’s worth doing a little training to get it right. It will also lessen the occurrences of negative or inappropriate humor that can result in sanctions, terminations or lawsuits.

You will want to start by being specific about just what kind of humor is likely to cross the legal limit. Make it crystal clear that sexist, racist, ageist, crude or cruel jokes are ALWAYS off-limits and can come with a high price – the aforementioned sanctions, termination or lawsuits. Point out that if telling a joke requires a warning – e.g. ‘I hope this doesn’t offend anyone’ – the best course is to just SKIP IT.

Point out to your people that not everyone has the same sense of humor. And, that while laughter is universal, humor is not. Encourage laughter that is inclusive - never at another’s expense. Explain that it’s best to avoid sarcasm or cynicism. That, while such comments may, indeed, be funny, they can also leave a bitter feeling in the workplace. The overall objective is to be funny without being negative.

Encourage your people to check in with their intuition before going for that laugh. Most people can sense if something is wrong. Coach your people to know that if a funny comment didn’t get the desired laugh or their humor, unintentionally, hit someone the wrong way – to quickly back up and make the apology or correction immediately. Caution them that - while self-deprecation can be a useful tool - it should be used with care and moderation especially around supervisors or people who don’t know them.

Finally, let your staff know that most effective humor focuses on the commonalities among people rather than the differences. Continue to encourage laughter at work as you make sure that it’s the kind that enhances understanding, lessens tensions, makes tough tasks easier and teamwork more successful and fun.

 

 
 
©2002 by Joyce K. Reynolds. Duplication with credits only please. Click here for easy access to all books referenced. For complimentary 20-minute Coaching session e-mail jreynolds@jkr.net or visit www.business-coach.org. Click here to send this newsletter to a colleague. Executive Business Coach on
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