Smile! Laughter just might be your secret weapon to getting back to "normal"


Jul 7, 2021

These days, many of us are breathing a collective sigh of relief as we eagerly—but cautiously—make our way out of the strict confines of our homes. We feel small waves of cheer each time another business reopens its doors. We may relish a bit each time we have one of those small but meaningful exchanges that make us feel like things are returning to “normal,” or at least a newer semblance of normalcy.

Especially where day-to-day work is concerned, though, you may also be wondering if making the transition back to a “normal” is easier said than done. As we experienced a year ago, so much change can be overwhelming if we’re unprepared. However, a key to making a smooth transition into this new chapter may be right under our noses—literally. Yes, according to scientists, the key may be laughter.

The science behind laughter

In a recent episode of CNN’s Chasing Life podcast, host and CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, explores the scientific function of laughter and how it can aid our interpersonal connections, cognitive function, and overall wellbeing. On the podcast, humor expert and psychologist Janet Gibson explain how humans have always used laughter to stay alive, and how we've evolved to still benefit from laughter today.

"Laughter is a communication signal. It shows how we are processing the events around us. Evolutionary psychologists said it was a great way to signal how we are feeling. Centuries ago, laughter was the glue that kept a group together. This would be a great survival tool for groups of humans are trying to 'us against the world.' The belief is that over centuries the brain kept these connections so that we now laugh when we hear things are relaxing, funny, surprising, amusing.

Believe it or not, laughter also promotes physical wellbeing, beginning at the cellular level, Gibson further explains, "When you laugh, you have endorphins circulating through the brain, so you feel good. When you laugh, you're also inhaling more oxygen so your brain and body cells get more oxygen."

Laughing together connects us

As a guest on Dr. Gupta's podcast, comedian Tig Nataro, shared how laughter helped her cope with painful experiences like cancer and the death of her mother. She also shares how revealed that how their shared sense of humor keeps her and her wife bonded, "We of course are regular people who have our issues and problems. But I would say that once a day we have a painful belly laugh together."

This, of course, can also be explained by science.

According to researchers Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas, co-authors of the book Humor, Seriously: Why Laughter is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life, and professors at Stanford Graduate School of Business, there are many social benefits to laughter, that can manifest in both our personal and professional lives. Studies show that business leaders prefer employees with a sense of humor, and believe that those employees do better work. Humor impacts the way people interact with one another and attribute confidence to and in one another, and helps to cultivate feelings of closeness and trust between people.

"What happens is our brains release the hormone oxytocin, and we're essentially cued to form an emotional bond with that person. And oxytocin, but the way, is the same hormone that's released during sex and childbirth, fun fact. Both moments when, from an evolutionary perspective, we benefit from feelings of closeness and trust," reveals Bagdonas during an episode of the podcast from Stanford Graduate School of Business, Think Fast, Talk Smart.

Gibson explains why this happens.

"Because you tend to laugh with others more than you do alone, you get social support. And this is what happens when we laugh with other people. Whether it is an illusion or not, we get the sense that other people understand us and that they think and feel just like we do. It’s very comforting and gives us the ability to go on and keep doing things, rather than withdraw. We become participants in life," shares Gibson.

Harnessing the power of humor

So how do we create opportunities to laugh more? Here are a few tips from Aaker and Bagdonas:

  • Storytelling can be a great vehicle for humor since a key element of humor is truth. Just remember, a good story has a goal.
  • Every day, normally mundane topics—like a mishap at family dinner—can highlight commonalities between people that may seem different in many ways we'd anticipate. These types of topics help ensure that no one is alienated by the punchline of a story or joke, especially in a professional setting.
  • Sometimes it isn't about being funny, as much is it is about being able to laugh. Looking for moments to laugh can do a lot to create levity for yourself and the people around you.

For more insight and tips from Aaker and Bagdonas, give their interview a listen.

Don't let you team's technology woes become a punch line

Of course, humor isn't the only ingredient necessary for a smooth transition back into living and working "in-person" again. Over the past year, technology has played a central role in connecting us and keeping us productive during challenging circumstances. This remains as true as ever as many of us return to offices, classrooms, and even the shops on our street corners.

Having a good handle on your technology infrastructure can also help enhance a team's performance and keep things running smoothly. For example, simple daily functions like printing, which might not have been as front-of-mind in a remote setting, could quickly become a major pain point for an in-person team, especially without the right equipment or setup.

Milner has several decades of experience helping teams save valuable time and money with our technology services and products. Contact us today to learn how we can help make your team's transition as smooth as possible. We look forward to helping you gain more time to focus on your team's business goals—and hopefully have a few laughs together in the process.