Want to learn something shocking?
“The average four-year-old laughs 300 times a day. The average 40-year-old? Only four,” writes Harvard professor Dr. Pamela Gerloff in “You’re Not Laughing Enough, and That’s No Joke.” That’s shocking!
Zen Buddhists believe that if you start the day with a laugh, you’ll be fine the rest of the day.
Maya Angelou, a wise woman if ever there was one, said “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.”
And a Yiddish proverb advises us, “What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.”
We all intuitively know that laughter is good for us, that it heartens us and strengthens us. We feel it when we laugh, the joy that pulsates through our bodies and tickles us to our very hair follicles.
Global research confirms that our intuition (and “best medicine” proverb) about laughter is right on the nose. We need to take this seriously.
Laughter & Health, Well-Being
“Laughter is carbonated holiness.” – Anne Lamott
- Stress Reduction +. Research has shown that laughter reduces levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and dopamine; increases health-enhancing hormones (such as endorphins), neurotransmitters, and infection-fighting antibodies; and improves blood flow to the heart—all resulting in greater relaxation and resistance to disease, as well as improved mood and positive outlook. (Dr. Pamela Gerloff)
- Heart Health. “The old saying that ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ definitely appears to be true when it comes to protecting your heart,” says Michael Miller, M.D., director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “We don’t know yet why laughing protects the heart, but we know that mental stress is associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining our blood vessels.”
- Pain reduction. Humor may help temper intense pain. James Rotton, Ph.D., of Florida International University, reported that orthopedic surgery patients who watched comedic videos requested fewer aspirin and tranquilizers than the group that viewed dramas.
Why Leaders (Especially) Need to Laugh?
Leaders set the tone during interactions large and small. When leaders lighten up, everyone feels more positive and more engaged. Laughing helps everyone feel more connected, friendlier, and perhaps even more alive. Isn’t that what you want your organization to feel like, to be like?
As a follower, I can tell you that the worse job experiences I’ve had involved leaders who didn’t “get” my sense of humor. As a leader, I made my followers totally miserable when I lost my sense of humor.
Since Leading Is No Laughing Matter, Take Action
Laughter count. Keep track of how many times a day you laugh. Are you closer to 4 than 300?
How often do you have a big ol’ belly laugh? Remember the last time and go ahead, laugh like that again for 20-30 seconds. Pay attention to how your body feels before, during, and after.
Need help? Keep clips of films or photos on your smartphone at the ready for a leadership laughter injection.
Make a list of three great laughers you know. Did you make the list? What about the good laughers you listed can you start imitating?
Observe kids at play. Think back to your childhood play and how it felt. Without becoming a creepy stalker, where can you take a 15-minute break and observe children playing? Do it!
If that’s impossible, think about a time you caught yourself smiling while engaged in an activity. What can you do each day to feel more at play, more catching-yourself-smiling?
Tell others you love their sense of humor. Herbert Prochnow writes, “If you want someone to laugh at your jokes, tell him he has a good sense of humor.” Take the opportunity to (authentically) tell someone you lead what a great sense of humor she has: You’ll both smile!
Tell a great joke. I personally am not a good joke teller. I can tell a story like nobody’s business but when it comes to jokes, I often forget the punchline just when it is time to deliver it. When you hear a great joke, write it down or record it immediately on your phone. This will help you retell it if you’re a poor joke teller like me.
This makes me laugh every time I read it…
George Bernard Shaw wrote to Winston Churchill:
Dear Mr. Churchill,
Enclosed are two tickets to my new play, which opens Thursday night. Please come and bring a friend, if you have one.”
Dear Mr. Shaw,
I am sorry, I have a previous engagement and cannot attend your opening. However, I will come to the second performance, if there is one.”
Laugh more, lead better.
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