This is part of a series looking at microskills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Registration for 2017 has now closed. Winners will be announced in Spring 2017. Sign up to receive an e-mail about registration for 2018 at www.employeerecommended.com.
How many minutes of laughter do you get every day?
Typically, this would be the type of question you might get asked about physical activity. Like physical activity, laughter impacts your physiology by increasing your heart rate and oxygen flow. In fact, laughter is good for your health, and that's good for your life both at home and at work. Did you know that 15 minutes of laughter burns 50 calories? That's equivalent to a mild workout. Laughter is associated with happiness, which is linked to good mental health.
The purpose of this microskill is adding laughter to your day to promote happiness – a mental state with the absence of negative emotions, the presence of positive emotions, and a feeling of life satisfaction. When you feel happier you'll be more productive at home and at work and reduce your stress.
How happy are you most days? If you're not sure, take a moment to get your Happiness IQ baseline. Happy people are more likely to laugh, which can create positive emotions. Track your happiness IQ score every 30 days for 12 months. You might be surprised that with focus and intention you might be able to increase your happiness one laugh at a time.
Regardless of your level of happiness, there are things you can do in the short-term to increase your happiness and improve your long-term happiness.
One example of a positive action for long-term happiness is paying attention to your mental health, which is directly influenced by the strength of your coping skills. As well, finding and maintaining healthy partner relationships can boost your level of happiness. The London School of Economics found that good mental health and having a healthy partner relationship had much more positive impact on creating happiness than doubling your income.
The positive thing about focusing on laughter is you don't need to have everything worked out. Each healthy laugh has positive benefits. All you need to do is see the benefits and make a commitment to add laughter to your life every day. The benefits of adding humour are well supported in research with sick children regarding the direct health benefits of laughter and fun for healing, relief of pain and mental health improvement.
It can be difficult to sit down and create 15 minutes of belly-busting laughter, but it's possible to find positive memories that get you smiling from insight. As you replay the memory, you may recall events that made you laugh. It's a bit easier to create a laughter framework that you can leverage daily.
Following is a simple framework for designing, facilitating and enjoying laughter daily.
1. Define your laughter factors
These are the things you do to increase the likelihood that you will laugh. The first action is to pick three things that you know can make you laugh, such as a TV series or bloopers, YouTube videos, comedians, a friend who makes you laugh, games, and other activities you find fun. Don't pick any activities that involve drinking or drugs; this microskill's focus is to leverage your natural brain chemistry. Once you pick your three things, you have defined your laughter bank. Since this is your bank, you can add and change what you pick. The key is to always be clear what's in your bank, so you can draw upon it. Keep in mind that the goal is to pick things that get you laughing.
2. Determine your daily need and time to engage in your laughter factors
Everyone is busy, but scheduling an exact time, like going to the gym, is not necessary. Schedule zones of time in your day that are flexible. For example, if you finish work at 5 p.m., haven't had a day of laughter and fun and want to add some, you know that after dinner you have a few hours to take some time for intentional laughter.
3. Turn off distractions and engage in your laughter factors
When you decide to engage your laughter factors, turn off the world and just be in the moment. The sole purpose is get a break from the world and demands of life and to take time for you to enjoy and laugh.
4. Evaluate your laughter experience
At the end of a planned laughter period, determine if the laughter factor you picked worked. Typically, give something two to three tries before you remove it from your laughter bank and replace it with something else.
The goal is to bring some laughter to your life to give you a releast, promote happiness and mental health. This microskill is by no means a cure for mental health, but it is good medicine. Our happiness will, in the end, be defined by what we think and do. Happiness is subjective and can change. However, the more we laugh healthily, the more likely we will perceive we are happy. Happy people are typically productive and attract others.
Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.
This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.
This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.
You can find all the stories in this series at this link:http://tgam.ca/workplaceaward