Modern science is now proving what’s long been known since ancient times. The positive emotion of humour mixed with smiles and laughter is a wellspring of health and hope for humanity. It is the most natural medicine in the world, and free!
Discovering why humour is so good for health and hopefulness should lead us all to want homes, schools and workplaces filled with more joy and laughter.
Transforming Power of Humour
Good humour has a transformative power by percolating positivity and squishing away
negativity. It is a perfect stress-reliever strategy. When we’re stressing less our capacity to cope with life’s problems improves and that fosters hope.
Our sense of self-worth and creativity also spark up when we’re able to take ourselves a
little less seriously and can look at life’s situations more light-heartedly. When the human mind is not heavily weighted with worrying thoughts one’s outlook is blinker-free making it easier to see positive possibilities. Hope grows when we perceive there’s light at the end of a tunnel.
Mind-Body Benefits of Humour
Healthy humour coated with laughter is physiologically and psychologically stimulating
and enriching for mind-body health. The benefits include mood enhancer, muscle-tension releaser, cardiovascular protection and immune system booster.
The healing benefits derived from the use of humour for patient care in hospitals was
captured in the popular film “Patch Adams” starring actor Robin Williams which was inspired by the true life story of Dr Hunter (Patch) Adams. Therapeutic hospital clowns are now incorporated into many medical centres worldwide and their helpful effect on
the healing process for patients is well documented.
“Gelotology” (not to be mistaken for the study of an Italian ice-cream), was a term framed for the study of laughter following the investigative research of Stanford
University Professor William F. Fry. His studies showed how exuberant laughter led to positive respiratory responses. Based on Fry’s pioneering work, many more researchers were spurred on to explore and discover humour’s healing effect in human biology.
Right-Way Use of Humour
Most of us sooner or later witness a kind of humour that crosses a line and is unhealthy
and inappropriate. There is no place for the use of humour as a “put-down” of any person. No room should ever be given to the use of humour to belittle or demean anyone especially on the basis of disability, sex, race or religion. Humour experienced and shared in the right way is life-affirming.
The Value of Humour in Education
The language of laughter is recognised universally as a powerful communicative and
contagious emotion that disarms and unifies us. Its ability to lower anxiety and defences, as well as creating a platform for rapport-building and social bonding, makes it a particularly useful resource in a learning setting.
Studies have shown that appropriate and relevant humour experienced in a classroom teaching context motivates learning, stimulates creative thought, and inspires positive
social and academic responses in students. Humour is an outstanding way to grab and hold attention. That makes it effective as a tool for achieving focus and for aiding the absorption of information. Because humour is also effective at reducing stress, it lends itself to shaping a healthier and happier learning environment in which students can better flourish.
Positive Workplace Humour
Humour at work can play a valuable role in improving worker wellbeing and productivity. Introducing laughter and playful banter into the workplace supports team cohesiveness, defuses conflict, lifts morale, brings focus to a common purpose and stimulates creativity.
Work-stress levels are going off-the-chart, presenteeism is a greater cost burden to
business than absenteeism, and research indicates around 40% of Australian
workers experience loneliness at work. Promoting healthy humour and laughter therefore offers potential as a difference-maker in our workplaces. For example, humour lowers stress and anxiety, breaks the tension in the atmosphere and facilitates comradery because it’s a rallying point of common human connection. It also boosts acceptance, openness and flexible thinking.
Usually the very nature of humour contains an element of incongruity. That is, we’re forced to fill in a gap, to find a resolution that makes sense of it all. So it is a component of humour that stimulates creative thought and what business wouldn’t benefit from advancing innovative thinking?
Leaders and managers who have learnt the art of integrating humour into their communication style are generally seen as more approachable and likeable. Managers who are not afraid to have a laugh at their own expense, and who can help team members to lighten-up, just might encourage employees to want to emulate a similar approach with one another. An attitude like that can be powerful in helping to take the edge off otherwise stressful situations or events. It can be a way that managers
reinforce to employees that they’re in a safe setting while also mustering greater trust and respect.
Humour proactively incorporated into the culture of a workplace therefore has many upsides. Importantly, it includes potentially improving the wellbeing of individuals, the team collective, and business performance.
Humour for a Resilient and Healthier Life
A life devoid of humour and laughter will almost certainly be joyless and boring. On the other hand, by exploring the experience of humour, you’ll be opening yourself up to this elixir of wellness that has cascaded down through the ages. Today it stands tall in that truth, thanks to a litany of scientifically-based studies.
Clearly, humour is a rewarding emotional character virtue to develop given its health-generating and life-affirming qualities. So, don’t let anything stand in your way. Start harnessing the power of humour, a handle of hope. Let it strengthen your resilience to better tackle life’s difficulties and uncertainties and enlarge your capacity to more happily and creatively interact with your world.
Comcare. Benefits to business: the evidence for investing in worker health and wellbeing. Retrieved from https://www.comcare.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/99303/Benefits_to_business_the_evidence_for_investing_in_worker_health_and_wellbeing_PDF,_89.4_KB.pdf
Hilton, J. (2019). Do your employees feel lonely at work? HRD. Retrieved from https://www.hcamag.com/au/specialisation/mental-health/do-your-employees-feel-lonely-at-work/172016
Lindsey, J. How a little humor can improve your work life. Greater Good Magazine. UC Berkeley. 15 October 2019. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_a_little_humor_can_improve_your_work_life
Savage, B.M., Lujan, H.L., Thipparthi, R.R. & DiCarlo, S.E. Humor, laughter, learning, and health! A brief review. Advances in Physiology Education, Vol. 41 No.3, American Physiological Society. 5 July 2017. Retrieved from https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/advan.00030.2017
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ROHAN WATSON is a member of the Australian Counselling Association and a general member of the International Association of Applied Neuroscience. He holds qualifications in Psychology, Counselling and Education from Monash University and USQ. As a Psychotherapist, Counsellor and Mental Health Researcher, Rohan is dedicated to helping unlock the potential in people to live life happily and more purposefully. His Toowoomba Counselling & Coaching service provides specialist wellbeing help to people from all walks and seasons of life by phone, video or face-to-face, both nationally and internationally.
Rohan has facilitated and delivered mental health programs across rural and remote Australia and he provides professional psychotherapy services to employees at all levels nationally through EAP based services. He is a particularly sought-after and highly skilled Marriage Counsellor and Relationship Counselling specialist. Rohan also has a special interest in the online delivery of mental wellness programs. His current research is focusing on early intervention mental wellbeing in the workplaces of Australian SMEs. Learn more here.