Find the funny—laughter’s healing power

Today’s blog post is the first in a special series that celebrates the month of May as Global Employee Health and Fitness Month, the international observance of health and fitness in the workplace. Our series, titled “Mind, body, and stomach,” is the work of Jim Heffernan, senior accountant at Discovery and Employee Wellness Committee ambassador.

 

An accountant by trade, I’ve been working on Discovery’s Finance team for over two years and have been in this profession for over 20. One thing I’ve found to be true—accounting and creativity are not a good mix on the job. It’s not a good idea to get “creative” with a company’s finances—it’ll usually land you on the front page of the Wall Street Journal for all the wrong reasons.

In order to express my creative side, several years ago I decided to sign up for an improv acting class to channel my creativity. I found this outlet to be more than just learning improv; it allowed me to be creative and confident with my comedy and found a whole new community to work with. In turn, I formed an improv comedy troupe and have enjoyed creating laughter ever since.

What I’ve learned first-hand over the years is that laughter is a very important part of health and wellness.

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.”

Charlie Chaplin

When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried? How did you feel after that bout of hysterical insanity? I bet it felt great. There are medical reasons for this feeling. It has been proven that laughter improves your heart, lungs, and muscles due to an increase in oxygen intake. Also, laughter can relieve stress and help you deal with difficult situations. When you laugh, the body releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural feel-good chemical. These endorphins lighten your mood and possibly help you live a longer life.1 Laughter is also linked to burning calories. And believe me, I’ll take a good laugh-until-you-cry moment over exercise any day!

We all need to increase our opportunities to laugh these days, especially while working from home due to COVID-19. With limited social interactions, finding the right way to express ourselves becomes more difficult. We need to find those outlets for laughter to continue to improve our well-being and keep ourselves interested and engaged. Here are a few ideas that can help bring some laughter into your otherwise ordinary day.

Fun with children

There was a whole television show based around kids saying the darnedest things! It’s very true. Sit down with your kids and tell funny stories and jokes. Pull out games or puzzles and play together. Suggest something crazy like an obstacle course through the house or dressing up in crazy outfits. You’ll be shocked how much you laugh and, in turn, your child will laugh with you. It’s important to take the time to have fun as a family.

Fun with pets

Laughter is an important part of human interactions. When you live alone with a pet, you tend to treat your pet as your companion, and he can provoke laughter in you. Think about it this way, if you talk to Fido, why wouldn’t you laugh with him, too? Get down on the floor and play tug-of-war or throw a ball. I bet you laugh. People tend to laugh when they see a dog fail at catching a ball or do something unexpected like jumping on the ball. This surely will bring a smile to your face.

Fun with co-workers and friends

Humor is a social activity. That’s why you laugh more watching a movie in a theater full of people rather than alone in your house. Reach out to your co-workers or friends. Schedule a meeting for lunch and share some of the funny things that have happened to you or your family—you may be surprised how happy this will make you. Nowadays, you can do almost anything virtually, from playing games to happy hours. You just have to find the right platform and enjoy the fun.

Fun everywhere

It’s important to find opportunities that work for you based on your individual style. There are many multimedia platforms, ranging from television shows and movies to online videos to visiting a comedy club. During this time, there are many comedy clubs that are offering online performances and classes you can take. Check your local neighborhood listings for these opportunities.

There are literally hundreds of possibilities for increasing laughter in your life. You need to find what’s funny to you. It can be as easy as finding some simple items like comic strips or funny photos—put them on your refrigerator, add funny quotes to your home office, watch your favorite funny movies, or listen to comical podcasts when you need a humor boost. I think it’s safe to say that we are all experiencing a certain degree of new stress these days. Find a way to laugh about your own situation and give yourself the permission to laugh at yourself! Feel the stress melt away. Make it a habit to find the funny every day and improve your overall well-being.

Find out more about Global Employee Health and Fitness Month here.

James HeffernanFind the funny—laughter’s healing power

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