When was the last time you enjoyed a genuine laugh at work?
Granted, this may be a difficult question for everyone to answer as we continue to navigate the pandemic. I’ve been working remote since March 2020. Most days are quiet and focused, but I find ways to giggle throughout the day. Sometimes I watch old SNL sketches, send my brothers memes in our group chat, or text my friends and coworkers funny GIFs that describe our day. It feels good! And it acts as a reminder that no matter where we may be physically located, we can still connect and make time to laugh together.
Science shows that making time for laughter not only helps boost our mood, but allows us to be more productive. The act of naturally laughing starts to activate neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Once activated, mood-boosting hormones like endorphins begin to increase throughout our bodies. Meanwhile, anxiety and stress hormones like cortisol decrease. In an interview with CNBC, Sophie Scott, director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London describes the increase of endorphins we get from laughing as “the body’s natural painkillers.”
Incredible, right? Here are a few more fantastic reasons why you should make time to laugh while you work.
Laughing Helps Us Find Silver Linings
How many times have we spent dwelling on something negative that happened throughout the course of the workday? Akhila Satish is the CEO of Meseekna where she coaches top performing companies on how to make better decisions through metacognition (AKA the how of thinking).
Satish understands how common it is for people to dwell on negative moments during work. Stewing in our juices over these moments has amplified amid the COVID-19 pandemic where there are fewer external distractions. A sense of humor can be a big boost in helping build our resilience and gain perspective.
“Humor helps us learn how to reframe difficult situations,” Satish says. “This is essential in learning how to find the silver lining to reduce your stress and stop from ruminating.”
Did you stumble during an all-hands meeting or are struggling through roadblocks on a project you’re working on with a coworker? Take a moment to laugh at yourself or laugh about the situation via FaceTime with your favorite coworker. Learning how to laugh helps you put a situation in perspective. It keeps us from sweating the small stuff and allows us to focus and become more productive.
Laughter Allows Us to Safely Share Experiences
Laughter is contagious in a group of people. When someone laughs, we laugh. This opens wide the floodgates of happiness hormones. Afterward, we feel a bit more at ease and comfortable among one another.
Mental health therapist and licensed clinical social worker Kimberly Perlin notes that not only does laughing together create positive interactions with our colleagues, but it also promotes a deeper level of bonding and comradery.
A sense of humor inspires people to talk about topics they might hesitate to discuss in a group setting. Perlin points to the example of why we love it when comedians discuss dark topics. These topics allow people to explore what they may fear or have shame about. Humor, and laughter, allow us to share our experiences in a safe manner. This increases human attachment, according to Perlin, which is a prophylactic for many health and emotional struggles.
Regularly Laughing Has Benefits Similar to Exercise
This may be one of my favorite facts about laughter! Dr. Elena Welsh is a professor at Antioch University in Los Angeles. Welsh also serves as the Senior Psychologist Supervisor at the California Department of State Hospitals. She says that new research demonstrates that regular laughter has benefits that are similar to benefits we receive when we regularly exercise. This includes lower blood pressure, reduced stress hormones, and the release of endorphins.
Bringing Laughter to Work
What’s the best way for coworkers to enjoy a laugh together? This, Welsh says, will depend on you as an individual and what makes you and everyone else laugh. Watching a brief comedy clip or funny social media account or stopping by the desk of a coworker who always cracks you up are all great starters to get laughing. (Working remote? Call or text a coworker who puts you in a good mood!)
Welsh also points out that employers would be wise to take note of this research. Professional settings can benefit from incorporating more laughter and giggles in the next normal.
“If you allow some humor into meetings, presentations, or other organizational events, you will not only help employees relax and feel more positive, but you will also end up with a more engaged and productive workforce,” Welsh says.