Humor to Boost Business Climate

Successful businesses work hard to create a comfort zone for both customers and employees. How can we reduce the fear factor, increase productivity, encourage collaboration, enhance creativity and problem solving, and build relationships? Researchers tell us humor can do all of this and more.

How is this possible? Understanding where they’re coming from:

The brain’s “internal security system” called the “Amygdala” is tagged with keeping us safe and alive. When we encounter a threat, this system flies into action shutting down everything we don’t need for immediate survival—thinking, digesting, empathy, compassion, resting, immune system, social skills, coping, and many others.

Have you ever noticed difficulty with problem solving, decision making, collaboration, productivity, and general well-being while stressed? Laughter releases chemicals that shift our brain’s energy forward to the thinking brain or Prefrontal Cortex. Voila! Mental clarity!

A Brain Workout – Every time you hear a joke:

Just as the body’s muscles can fade when they aren’t exercised regularly, the brain needs challenges to stay sharp. Hearing a joke sets off a split second complex process that extends to other people.

  1. The sound enters your ear.
  2. The Vestibular system sends it to the language center in your left hemisphere
  3. That auditory center makes sense of the words.
  4. The message zips across the Corpus Collosum to the right hemisphere where the right frontal cortex stores social memories.
  5. The hippocampus processes emotion.
  6. Dopamine surges the brain’s reward center (Nucleus Accumbens) and you feel good.
  7. Brain stem takes over the muscles that make you laugh
  8. Your brain spreads the good feelings to others whose brains are “tuned in” to yours.

This explains the “you had to be there” effect when we try to recreate the connection for someone else who didn’t share the original funny experience.

Social Connections

In our own brains, the cells that fire together “wire together” forming connections between them. The same thing happens between people when they share an experience – telling a joke, completing each other’s sentences; their brains fire together, laying the groundwork for relationships. Connections form between two people just as neural pathways between parts of a single brain.  Relationships between friends are strengthened when we laugh together.

Laughter is contagious. At the sound of someone laughing, our own brain responds. Our own internal “Happy Juice Factory” releases – Dopamine, Serotonin, and Endorphins to give us a natural rush—free, legal and no “residual” problems. Rely on laughter early and often!

Creativity – Problem Solving

Several researchers document the benefits of humor on creative thinking. Robyn McMaster’s study noted that finding new connections is at the core of both humor and creativity—so they complement each other.  “In fact, humor is highly correlated with both creativity and intelligence … A dose of humor releases the chemical serotonin in your brain, which improves focus, increases objectivity and improves overall brainpower.”   (A Dash of Humor Ups Performance and Creativity at Work by Robyn McMaster, PhD. Brain Based Biz, Sept 2008)

 

Problem solving improves in a similar way. Exercising the brain through humor keeps it agile and ready to view novel solutions.  (Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving” by Alice M Isen, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1987, 52, 112-131)

Humor Heals

Finally, the health benefits of humor have been documented for centuries.  Norman Cousins wrote about healing himself of degenerative arthritis during the 1960’s through reading humor books and watching comedy shows– Three Stooges and Charlie Chaplin and massive doses of Vitamin C. (Anatomy of an Illness 1990)

In business and in daily life, humor creates healthy resiliency and success. When we can see the humor in challenging situations and poke fun at ourselves, even setbacks have their benefits. “She who laughs, ‘lasts’.”

Print Resources:

  • Humor, stress and coping strategies by Millicent H. Abel (study 2002)
  • A Day in the Life Your Brain by Judith Horstman (2009)
  • Wake Up Laughing by Rachel St. John-Gilbert (2011)
  • “A Dash of Humor Ups Performance and Creativity at Work” by Robyn McMaster, PhD. Brain Based Biz, Sept 2008
  • “Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving” by Alice M Isen, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1987, 52, 112-131

Online Resources:

  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456 April 21, 2016
  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/laughter-and-memory_n_5192086.html
  • https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&rlz=1C1CHWA_enUS605US605&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=businessolver%20west%20des%20moines
  • Humor boosts overall brainpower. “A dose of humor releases the chemical serotonin in your brain, which improves focus, increases objectivity and improves overall brainpower.” by Andrew Tarvin http://www.humorthatworks.com/benefits/30-benefits-of-humor-at-work/
  • “Give your body a Boost with Laughter” by R Morgan Griffin, WebMD 2012