By Mary Ann Faremouth, CPC
With April Fools’ Day right around the corner, I decided to investigate the role humor plays in our lives. While there are various schools of thought on the origin of April Fools’ Day—including confusion over the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, an ancient Roman festival known as Hilaria, and the changeable nature of the weather around the vernal equinox—the importance of humor to our health is no laughing matter. Laughter affects the body as much as the mind, easing stress, aiding focus, and boosting long-term well-being. And though modern science might be able to better explain how this happens, the concept itself is not new. As Beth Wood quotes in her San Diego Union-Tribune article on the benefits of comedy, Abraham Lincoln told his cabinet in 1862, “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh, I should die and you need this medicine as much as I do.”
The New Work World offers its own brand of fearful strain, and staying mentally and physically healthy is critical to enhanced productivity and retention for employers and employees alike. Let’s look at some scientific studies on how humor contributes to a more enjoyable work experience as we prepare to celebrate April Fools’ Day and beyond.
1. Laughter Is Contagious
According to a 2018 article in Annie McKee, Yale University School of Management studied the spread of emotions among working groups. The study found that warm emotions spread much more easily than negative ones. This is good news for the New Work World, as the increased diffusion rate of positive emotions makes it easy for one person to lift the mood of their entire workplace—and through it, productivity and business performance. Laughter is a particularly powerful mechanism for this emotional diffusion. Whenever we hear laughter, we automatically smile or laugh too. One person’s laugher can cause a chain reaction of positivity to sweep through a group—a positive emotional hijack.
2. Laughter Bolsters Creativity
According to Sue Mehrtens, blog author for the Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences, psychologist Carl Jung was a big proponent of humor and laughter. Filling our lives with laughter helps us increase cognitive function, improving not only our mood but also our brain function, memory, alertness, and problem-solving ability. Humor also allows us to see situations from different perspectives, increasing our creativity. Such creativity is important in the New Work World as, more and more, employers want employees with expansive mindsets who will seek opportunities to grow and expand their companies in groundbreaking ways.
3. Laughter Increases Circulation
In a 2010 Harvard Health article, former executive editor Patrick J. Skerrett discusses growing research on the effect of laughter on the circulatory system. While brain scans and other tests provide evidence of laughter’s effect on the brain, causing feelings of pleasure and a sense of well-being, researchers have also found that arteries respond in healthy ways, relaxing to increase flow and becoming more flexible. If laughter can increase our heart health and strengthen our immune systems, the New Work World can experience fewer absences and workflow interruptions, as well as a decrease in costs for health benefits.
This Friday, as your coworkers play their April Fools jokes, remember the studies that show the positive impact of humor in the office. “Laughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity,” writes Harvard Business Review executive editor Alison Beard. Instead of rolling your eyes at your coworkers, give thanks for the laughter they provide, and consider how you can keep up positive mindfulness practices that bring laughter into the workplace. You and your coworkers will benefit from keeping laughter in the New Work World.
Mary Ann Faremouth
Mary Ann holds a CPC (Certified Personnel Consultant) credential, was certified by the Board of Regents of the National Association of Personnel Consultants in Washington, D.C., and was awarded an Advanced Communicator Bronze, Advanced Leader Bronze Awards by Toastmasters. She cofounded Jobs: Houston magazine in 1997. Mary Ann maintains affiliations with professional organizations, including oil and gas, financial, construction, IT, and structural, mechanical, and civil engineering. (www.faremouth.com)
Mary Ann’s award-winning first book Revolutionary Recruiting has been listed by Book Authority as Number #1 Best 100 Recruiting Books; #1 Best Seller, Non-Fiction, Amazon (2019); Top 20 Recruiting books, Recruitics; Readers’ Choice finalist (2019), Houston Literary Awards; Best Non-Fiction (2018), Best Cover (2019), and Best Self-Help (2018), Authors Marketing Guild. Her books support individuals and corporations, tap into each candidate’s unrealized potential to find the right person for each job, maximizing both employee satisfaction and the employer’s bottom line. Mary Ann showcases her expertise of the recruiting world on a monthly podcast for The Price of Business and weekly articles for USA Business. Her new workbook, Revolutionary Reinvention, was recently released on Amazon. Mary Ann lives in Houston, Texas.