When was the last time you had a good belly laugh. I mean one of those laughs that consumes every part of your body, that literally stops you in your tracks, almost gasping for air… that kind of laughter. Have you ever thought about it? When was the last time you laughed like that? Or more importantly, how often have you laughed like that?
This morning, at an inn where I was staying, I walked by a group of people having a board meeting. It just looked so dire. I immediately asked myself “when was the last time anyone in that room really laughed?” I looked at the sign outside the room which said Credit Union Board of Directors meeting. Now, I don’t know much about credit unions or anything about the individuals that were in that meeting, so this is not about them —they just served as a reminder that we might need to be thinking of laughter as another tool in our corporate or organizational toolbox.
Many say that laughing is the most grounding or balancing thing you can do. There is a healing property to laughter. It de-stresses you. The Dalai Lama, the most calm and balanced man I know, refers to himself as a “professional laugher.” His simple definition is that every negative has an equal and opposite positive.
It seems like many times we choose to just focus on the negative versus taking a holistic view, which includes both the reality of the negative but also recognizing and celebrating the positive side as well. Think about that for a moment. In essence, it could be taken literally that for every moment that we are heavy, serious or negative, we should have an equal moment of levity, smiling, and being positive. So, just like trust factors, you would have a “laughter factor.”
How many times do you hear laughter in your office, break room or lunch room? How many of your employees are having fun, or are just plain happy to be in the work environment that you have created? Personally, I have been working on my own “personal laugh factor” or what I call my PLF. It is not as good as I thought it was, but I am starting to work on it. There are many reasons that are really important for all of us to start working on it, too.
How should you begin? First and foremost, pay attention. See if people are laughing around you. Are you hanging with people that are having fun? When talking with your associates, ask them if they have ever thought about their PLF. Just calling attention to it can create a change and make people take stock. For every serious moment, do you have a light and fun moment? Could it be that if the leadership team lightens up then so will everyone else? Again, that doesn’t mean you ignore the reality of the situation, it just means you realize there is an equal and opposite positive or lighter side to every situation.
Now, let’s just practice a little bit. Yes, what if I told you that this little exercise (of looking for the positive and being conscious of how often you laugh) could be more important than taking your Omega 3s or your Multivitamin? What if laughing today could be the most important thing you do for your health? Because looking for the humor in everything you do, everyday, could be critical to your health. In fact, I think maybe today I will skip the gym and my usual sit ups and consciously look for humor and the opportunity to laugh. Could it really be that a laugh a day keeps the doctor away? Yup, check out this quote:
Laughter activates the body’s natural relaxation response. It’s like internal jogging, providing a good massage to all internal organs while also toning abdominal muscles.
Dr. Gulshan Sethi
Head of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Tucson Medical Center
University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
It is also said that laughter boosts immunity and fights depression. One other really critical component of laughter is that it is contagious. When was the last time you where in a meeting and something just hit you and you burst out laughing? Yes, laughing out loud! Then someone else broke out laughing… And then another and another and pretty soon most of the room is splitting a side laughing. This attribute is really important because laughers like hanging around with other laughers. Laughter is contagious, laughter creates friendship. Laughter creates long lasting relationships.
Laughter could also be your organization’s most important competitive advantage. Laughter could be the key to lowering your organization’s overall healthcare cost. What if it was the most important factor when recruiting the best talent?
Let’s for a moment hone in on your company’s competitive advantage. You might be asking how could my employee’s “laugh factor” be one of my most important competitive advantages? To me, it comes down to one component of your own “personal laugh factor,” and that is the holistic view that I described above. You have to have it for a high “personal laugh factor.” This holistic view of both the negative and the positive will allow your people to look at the big picture, to see all of the aspects that many of your competitors are missing. This ability to look at the world, to look at your industry or sector with a holistic view is going to create unique opportunities and different perspectives for you and your organization. Insights that the others—the low-laugh-factors—don’t see.
We talked about the impact laughter has on your health and immune system, but what about recruiting the best talent? When you go back to that meeting where someone burst out laughing and then one by one everyone started laughing out loud —Well, that is because laughter is contagious, and that contagiousness means that laughers hang around with laughers. Laughers want to be with laughers. So, guess what? If you have laughers you will attract other laughers to your company. Then your company will become a fun place to work and you will have created a healthy and nurturing environment. And then you will have the most innovative perspective of your industry. You will identify your weaknesses as well as your opportunities. In other words, because all of this starts with you, your “personal laugh factor” could be the key to your company or organization’s success.
Guess it is time to ask, what’s your laugh factor?