This past month I’ve been struck by how much humor has played a role in either setting up my day or giving me a spontaneous laugh. I asked Siri, that handy little voice on the iPhone what a particular song was on the radio and wow was I surprised at her answer! “Its ‘Bang, Bang’ Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minja. I hope they are practicing gun control.” I don’t know what had me laughing more, Siri’s deadpan delivery or the line about gun control! Humor as a serious topic is evidenced by its importance as noted by both Harvard Business Review and numerous studies on the healing powers of humor.

Let’s start by looking at it from a business point of view. There are two different points of view from the serious side of business. Peter McGraw who is a marketing and psychology professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and Joel Warner, a journalist, have a theory they discuss in the book, “The Humor Code”. According to these two researchers “humor rests on “benign violation”: That is, something provokes laughter when it is “wrong, unsettling, or threatening” but also seems “okay, acceptable, or safe.”” (Harvard Business Review, ‘Leading with Humor’ by Allison Beale, May 2014) Think in this case on a funny mix up or a dirty joke.

Also from that same article comes this, “The men behind Inside Jokes—Matthew M. Hurley, of Indiana University; Daniel C. Dennett, of Tufts; and Reginald B. Adams Jr., of Pennsylvania State University—take a much more academic approach” and postulate that, “We laugh when we find that something we’ve momentarily believed to be the case isn’t in fact true, and at others in the same predicament, and at stories about such situations, especially if they are linked to pleasures of other kinds, such as insight, schadenfreude, superiority, or sexual titillation.”

However you’d like to think of it there is a time and place in a Thriving business to use humor. Within the business setting its important to keep in mind your audience, who may include potential clients for you, so work to make sure you are yourself. Don’t believe you’ve got a stand up routine in your immediate future? According the McGraw and Warner cleverness is sometimes just as good. Poke fun at yourself to signal that it is all going to be OK.

On the Thriving Individual side I would remind you of Norman Cousins who in the last 1970’s attributed relief from a form of arthritis which doctor’s said had little chance of treating to his use of vitamins and hours of laughter. In his book, “Anatomy of an Illness as Described by the Patient” he talks about how much relief he got from belly laughing at his favorite movies. It’s a good read and the fact that I recall reading it when it first came out should tell you how good of a read.

There are plenty of studies to show the benefits of humor and laughter so rather than bore you with all the citations here is a good list I found from the Cancer Treatment Centers:

According to some studies, laughter therapy may provide physical benefits, such as helping to:

  • Boost the immune system and circulatory system
  • Enhance oxygen intake
  • Stimulate the heart and lungs
  • Relax muscles throughout the body
  • Trigger the release of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers)
  • Ease digestion/soothes stomach aches
  • Relieve pain
  • Balance blood pressure
  • Improve mental functions (i.e., alertness, memory, creativity)

Laughter therapy may also help to:

  • Improve overall attitude
  • Reduce stress/tension
  • Promote relaxation
  • Improve sleep
  • Enhance quality of life
  • Strengthen social bonds and relationships
  • Produce a general sense of well-being

Is there any part of that list which does not sound good to you? Of all the techniques we use to help us obtain pain relief, sleep more soundly and feel closer to our friends and family what could be more fun than a good laugh? Wouldn’t you like to use a simple method for improving your Thriving business relationships? How much more simple could this get? Seriously! If you’ve got a good laugh or need help learning to laugh again please drop me a line! I would welcome a good laugh and if you really aren’t finding anything to laugh about then I’d like to give you a hand ~ life is far, far too short not to chuckle once in a while!