This week I’m turning my attention to humour and how it generates the positive emotions that can support us through the chaos of the current global pandemic.
In the midst of stress, uncertainty and overwhelm it’s essential for our wellbeing that we focus on the positive. According to Shawn Achor:
“Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative or neutral.”
He calls this the happiness advantage.
Increasing our happiness improves our intelligence, creativity and energy levels. And since our external circumstances only account for 10 per cent of our happiness levels; to become happier we must consciously retrain our brains to scan the world for the positive. Achor suggests we can do this in just 21 days with a range of approaches such as keeping a gratitude journal, exercising and mediating.
One of the quickest ways to generate a positive state is to ask a question that focuses on the positive. And one of the simplest to ask – according to Robyn Stratton-Berkessel – is:
What’s the best thing that happened to you today?
Her TEDx talk demonstrates how focusing on this question elicits a range of positive emotions.
Having fun at work has its advantages. It builds trust, diffuses tension and helps people be more efficient. It can also fuel innovation since both humour and creativity are about making non-obvious connections.
According to Paul Osincup humour can even make us better leaders, although I recommend that women treat this one with caution. It’s been shown to be easier for men to navigate the tricky balance between gravitas and approachability (but that’s a topic for another blog). Even if you’re not currently a leader 75% of your job success can be predicted by your levels of happiness and positivity according to Achor.
Laugh a little
Seeing the funny side of a situation – and being able to laugh about it – is a strategy that’s helped me navigate various stressful circumstances thrown at me by life. And one of my favourite talks on the subject of managing stress with humour is this TEDx talk by Loretta Laroche.
According to researchers laughter is good for us both physiologically and psychologically. It relaxes our bodies and makes us breathe more deeply. According to Sohpie Scott it’s also an essential bonding mechanism that helps us connect with others. Apparently we’re thirty times more likely to laugh in company than when we are on our own.
Women have always instinctively known this. Our natural response to stress is to ‘tend and befriend’. That means we cope by reaching out to others (often our female friends) to talk through our challenges. Very often we find ourselves laughing at the situation as a result.
In these challenging times it can be hard to maintain our sense of humour. When we lose it we risk also losing our power; and feeling like victims rather than creators. If you’re struggling why not join Ida Abdalkhani in a session of Laughter Yoga. For, as she says: we deserve to laugh.