I chatted with a good friend last night. I hadn’t talked to her for a couple of months, but we had stayed in touch by email. I knew that there were some really good things going on for her, but also that she had spent a lot of energy over the past several months getting to these good places.
Our talk was really comfortable. We haven’t known each other long, but we know each other really well. Our conversation easily went to some pretty deep places where my friend shared much of what she had been going through. We both felt the conversation emotionally, with a minimum of most eyes on each end of the telephone line. It was very much a good, wholesome conversation but one with some weight to it, and I was feeling the energy it was taking to be in it.
Then we laughed.
To me it felt like my energy returned instantly, and my memory moved immediately to all of the fun, amazing times we had spent together. We talked about our time working through our coaching certifications together where we would meet every morning at 6:30 with another friend for a two to three-mile walk to the local coffee roaster and back (if you’re ever in Santa Barbara in California it is worth the walk to the Santa Barbara Roasting Company)!
On those walks, it was almost guaranteed that before we had even left our hotel we were laughing, often with deep belly laughs that had everyone else wondering what could be so funny so early in the morning. We would carry the humor and energy with us for the rest of the walk. Most days the lift of that early walk kept us going for the entire day.
Thinking of those circumstances got me thinking about the overall value of laughter, and how we might bring more of that into life, and specifically into the workplace. Here’s four thoughts I have as to why we need laughter at work:
- It Gives Us Energy – the act of laughing releases endorphins in our brain. Endorphins are known as a chemical/hormone that produces a feel-good effect. That feel-good effect translates into an elevated emotional energy, which can make us more resilient to stress and help us maintain our productivity levels.
- It Builds Relationships – research is showing that the value of laughter is that it contributes to group bonding and may have been very important in the evolution of humans as a highly social species. This effect continues today – the combination of this social bonding and the stress-relieving release of endorphins makes a fun, humor filled environment a potent team building tool.
- It Makes Us Present – a good joke or some other humorous event such as storytelling, reading a story, acting goofy, etc. only happens in the present. So it follows that the act of laughing must bring us to the present. Have you ever had a really good belly laugh while not being aware of your body, who you were with and your overall sense of well-being? I would guess not. When we are present, we are more likely to take the actions that are most appropriate right now, and thus we are more likely to be our most effective.
- It Builds Positive Culture – where would you rather work? Somewhere the silence of studious hard work is valued? Or an office where you occasionally have to get up and close your door because the laughter in the hall is getting in the way of the phone conversation you are involved in. I’m guessing there are some people who would choose the former, but I would also guess that those organizations that are most valued for their corporate culture cultivate fun and laughter among their teams.
It is also helpful to remember laughter’s little cousin … smiling! I’m amazed how much I can shift my outlook on whatever I’m engaged in simply by checking the set of my face and shifting it to a smile. There is almost an instant feeling of “lighten up” that appears when I do that.
How do you view laughter, humor and smiles in your work life? Do you look for the opportunity? Do you see it as a part of culture? Or does it feel more like an ineffective use of time? Do you have any interesting stories of laughing in your workplace?