Laughter still the best medicine
Depressing times need innovative ways to cope
WITH RECESSION MISERIES rocking the corporate world and stress levels soaring among corporate bigwigs, a little bit of laughter is perhaps what’s needed for a change. Experiential studies show that laughter – whether faked or real – reduces depression while enhancing staff morale in the workforce.
For example, a study on workplace laughter (without humour) by Beckman, Regier and Young, published in the Journal of Primary Prevention (United States) sought to measure the effects of purposeful aerobic laughter on employees’ sense of efficacy in the workplace. Purposeful laughter is defined as experiential laughter achieved without any joke told or comic act performed.
Martin Combrinck, a certified yoga professional and trainer – whose Laughter4Africa conducts laughter sessions for corporate organisations – says sessions are premised on fake laughter, which then develops into real laughing. “The body doesn’t know the difference between fake and real laughter,” he says.
That may sound paradoxical if exercise is your curse. After all, whoever thought laughter should involve physical effort? But it seems stimulated laughter works just as effectively as spontaneous cackles. If there was any doubt here’s what the Beckman, Regier and Young study found: “Employees demonstrated a significant increase in several different aspects of self-efficacy, including self-regulation, optimism, positive emotions and social identification and maintained these gains at follow-ups.”
That complements our common psychological understanding that laughter eases tension and reduces high blood pressure while pumping more oxygen into the brain, thereby enhancing mental activity. “It makes you feel lighter and that you can cope with life,” Combrinck says.
For corporates struggling to whip up confidence levels among employees, that’s strong medicine. Certainly, tough times require volumes of energy in the workforce to cope with the daily grind.
Combrinck says it’s a perfect antidote to the doom and gloom afflicting embattled corporates. Indeed, if (as economists say) the downturn is a “temporal problem”, laughter is surely a perfect temporal solution to coping in current times?
In India – where the laughter yoga concept originates – studies have confirmed the efficacy of laughter in increasing creativity levels among employees of distressed company branches, such as information and communication technology divisions, says Combrinck.
He says the concept is now gaining popularity in SA, where several major corporate organisations – including Pick n Pay, FNB, Metropolitan, Kumba Iron Ore, Old Mutual, Virgin Money and Quest Personnel – have hired the services of Laughter4Africa.
Pick n Pay’s Bronwen Rohland says the group has used laughter yoga three times over the past couple of months as part of a wider stress management strategy for employees and team building in the company. “Pick n Pay realises personal fitness encompasses both physical as well as mental health,” she says.
“The response from employees has been very positive and is still a talking point and reminder when situations are tough and stressful. The team-building that takes place during the process has really brought individuals closer together and created a happier work space.”
Furthermore, Rohland notes there’s a definite correlation between having positive people in your work environment and higher levels of energy and productivity as the laughter yoga creates an opportunity to release workplace stress and has the ability to bring about powerful positive physiological changes to employees.
There you go: more interesting ways to enhance productivity. You’ll never know if it works until you’ve tried it.
The perfect antidote to doom and gloom. Martin Combrinck