By Robert Jones
EAP Trainer, The Village Business Institute
For years I’ve struggled with something about myself, the embarrassing guilty pleasure I just can’t quit because it brings a bit of sanity into my life. It’s the cinematic masterpiece “Evolution” by Ivan Reitman, starring David Duchovny and Orlando Jones.
Before you judge me, I recognize that a movie about aliens evolving and growing in the Arizona desert and the conflict that ensues between the U.S. Army and some disgraced professors of the Glen Canyon Community College is not Oscar-worthy. However, this quirky comedy is my key to maintaining a reasonable level of health.
What is the connection? I can sum it up in one word: Laughter. Laughter is one of the best things we can do to take care of ourselves in the short and long term.
The act of laughing release endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemical. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a number of short-term benefits to laughter, like an increase of oxygen-rich air into the lungs, which feed the heart and muscles. Laughter can also activate and relieve an individual’s stress response, leaving them feeling relaxed. Over the long-term, laughter can improve an individual’s immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction and improve mood.
Laughter has become so important in the care of patients dealing with chronic care issues that the Cancer Treatment Centers of America have developed Laughter Therapy, which has been shown significantly impact the treatment process by reducing pain, decreasing stress-related hormones, and improving the overall quality of life for patients with chronic illness.
Unfortunately, as our culture over the past few decades has adopted the false belief that busyness is the same as productivity, we have forgotten to take time for one of the most basic aspects of self-care.
We have forgotten how to laugh.
Daily stress seeps in, and we’re not sure why we feel emotionally drained, or have that headache we cannot seem to kick, or why people annoy us to no end. These and other symptoms of stress are caused by poor self-care, and they can affect our productivity, our desire to work, and our relationships at home and in the workplace. Sometimes, we have to find a way to get that shot of endorphins to adjust our mood.
(I honestly think this is why we have YouTube; so that we can search our favorite scenes from “Friends” or “The Big Bang Theory” – my go-to shows for a quick fix.)
A quick-fix approach to laughter fits with research showing that people need to work in intervals. It is estimated that people should work 60 to 90 minutes, and then take a 10- to 15-minute break and step away from their workspace. How ideal, as 10 to 15 minutes of laughter can improve your mood and help you refocus, so when you go back to your desk you can continue to be productive. During that time, you can watch some clips from your favorite TV comedy on your phone, pop into a friend’s office and ask them a ridiculous question, or read the comics in the breakroom.
I’m not saying that the only way we can laugh is to watch a funny movie (like “Evolution”) or TV show. We can laugh while playing board games with family and friends, people-watching at the mall, or sharing an embarrassing moment with friends. Learn to laugh at yourself – we are not perfect, and our mistakes can be funny. The key is not to hide from laughter. If you hear this amazing medicine, move toward it.
If you do not have a guilty-pleasure comedy that always makes you laugh, here’s another suggestion. Buy a big bag of Laffy Taffy, set the candy out on your desk, and watch as the jokes on the wrapper draw people in. Here are a few to get you laughing today:
- What prize do you get for putting your phone on vibrate?
A No Bell Prize
- What did the skunk say when the wind changed?
It all comes back to me now
- What do you get when you cross a chicken and a clock?
An Alarm Cluck
- What do you call a computer that sings?
About the author
Robert Jones is an Employee Assistance Program Trainer with The Village Business Institute. Robert has a bachelor’s degree in History and a master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling and leadership. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and recently began working on his Educational Doctorate in Leadership. Robert has nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality field and has been doing freelance training for almost 10 years.