“I have survivor skills. Some of that is superficial – what I present to people outwardly – but what makes people resilient is the ability to find humour and irony in situations that would otherwise overpower you” – Amy Tan
After writing about Kurt Vonnegut and his satiric approach to literature yesterday, I spent some time thinking about the benefits of humour. We can respond to everyday events with a range of possible emotions which exist somewhere between anger and joy. If we choose to respond with positive emotions like laughter, much in our lives can change for the better (Borchard, 2011). The health advantages of laughter are plentiful – Dr. Frank Lipman, self-proclaimed Health Evangelist, identifies simple 10 reasons to have a daily laugh on his website:
1. Laughter helps boost your immune system by increasing T cell activity, those “killer cells” that help our bodies fight viruses and tumors.
2. Laughter helps lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, decreases pain and can also help stabilize blood sugar.
3. Laughter stimulates chemical changes in the brain that help buffer our bodies against the cumulative effects of stress.
4. Laughter burns a few extra calories: according to a recent university study, just 10 -15 minutes worth of chuckles throughout the day can burn up to 40 calories.
5. Laughter stimulates the release of endorphins, the mood-elevating brain chemicals behind the “runner’s high.”
6. Laughter helps reduce inflammation throughout the body – good news for your heart, brain and circulatory health.
7. Laughter “massages” internal organs – which is why it’s sometimes referred to as “internal jogging” – with effects similar to exercise.
8. Laughter provides a light workout for the heart, lungs, diaphragm and even the abdominal muscles.
9. Laughter releases tension in the muscles of the face, neck, shoulders and abdomen – all common areas where we tent to hold lots of tension
10. Laughter is physically and mentally therapeutic – an involuntary response, that positively alters mood instantly – what could be better? (see Comic Relief: The Healing Power of Laughter by Frank Lipman, March 20th, 2014).
There are also extensive social benefits which can come from seeking out humour and laughter; not only do people want to be around the funny, relaxed person in the room, it can also strengthen relationships and help to diffuse conflict (see Laughter is the Best Medicine by Melinda Smith and Jeanne Segal, April 2014).
Leaders throughout history have effectively used humour to build team morale and keep individuals striving towards a shared goal. This great compilation of quotes hints at the importance of humour in leadership roles, and perhaps the best example is this one:
“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
If the physical health, social, and personal leadership benefits of humour and laughter do not get you excited, I don’t know what will! There are so many ways that you can laugh and smile – watching a funny movie, hanging out with a hilarious friend, or reading the Reddit r/funny stream. Make it your mission to get out there and smile today!