A Brain on Laughter

Stopped in your tracks by pressures from financial woes? Tired of a job that’s going nowhere? Without good ideas to lead your next innovation? Let laughter crack you up and stir up new aha moments when you need them most.

A Brain on Humor

Want much more than coping?

You can discover new initiatives through comedy, because a lighthearted attitude often brings eureka moments of unexpected inspiration. Even a fake smile can lower your stress!  Research shows that with humor the brain increases activity in your anterior cingulated cortex, in preparation for problem solving.

Discover Laughter’s Innovative Triggers

When I taught at McGill University, and worked with Inuit leaders in the most Northern communities on Baffin Island, we laughed a lot. Especially when my English smacked up against their Inuktitut in ways that neither language made sense, laughter gave us meaning and communication beyond words.

Humor melds insights across ages, bridges beliefs, and draws the best from brains, often separated by barriers few can cross well. Researcher, Karuna Subramaniam at Northwestern University found that people with a more positive or lighthearted perspective stay focused better on one strategy and also shift brain activity to discover novel solutions. Have you seen it?

How Laughter Opens Minds

If tensions flee in the wake of a simple joke, and brainpower boost over a funny faux pas, what holds you back at work? Laughter may be the best balancing elixir of the human brain, and yet still tops the missing -list in most workplaces. Does hilarity hail from your circles to replace the doom that comes from media or fellow workers?

If you cut up over one-liners – you’ve likely also seen humor’s upshot to your brain when laughter leads to insight. You may not know however, that humor’s especially effective when people laugh at themselves. Laugh to lift morale, reduce tension or communicate differences in side-splitting style, and expect innovation to follow.

The man behind the hilarious memes, Ben Huh, gets 170 million visits to his online site daily because it gives 5 minutes of laughter a day. Not surprisingly, participants consistently rank humorous speakers as most effective, and humorous peers as favorite. Do you? Interestingly, while research also shows how lectures tend to work against human brains, at the same time, humor open minds to learn and retain more.

Facilitate Laughter that Builds Trust

Last week I spent time with my darling grandson Hendrik – who reminded me of the kind of laughter that propels trust!

Hendrik – my Grandson – keeps me laughing

Sadly, the opposite is also true.  Wield humor to diminish people who differ, and nobody wins.

At its best, humor disarms people from attacking ideas before they can  grow. Hendrik’s  ever-ready humor wins  delight from differences and reminds you of novelty that that comes with a positive mood.

You needn’t develop the skills of a successful stand up comedian to see laughter work in your favor. Bantering with a baby who laughs easily, can literally  increase your chances for promotion, can ease negotiations in arduous meetings, or can even build trust among colleagues and clients.

Have you seen it happen?

It’s a win-win. Simply because humor involves additional operations and areas of the brain’s limbic system, it helps you remember more facts that lead to cutting edge discoveries. Laugh with a baby rather than stress over loses, and watch brain benefits follow. You’ll transfer  cutting edge theories into highly innovative practices that most people crave.

Humor’s Further Brainpowered Benefits

Experts recommend humor to release endorphins, trigger health, increase relaxation, and alter brain chemicals in the direction of winning. How so?

1. Release endorphins into the brain so that pain can be reduced, and people appear happily distracted from difficult situations.

2. Trigger health by stimulating the immune system and connecting mind and body exchanges in positive and healthier ways.

3. Increase relaxation through added oxygen to the brain, better air exchange and fuel for deeper thought or learning.

4. Alter chemicals within the brain, in ways that reduce stress, lift emotions and contribute to and sustains a sense of well being.

Check out recent research on laughter’s exilir effects as it ratchets up both emotional and mental health, and you’ll likely set an agenda to bring more deliberate humor into your innovative initiatives.

How could comedy help you design innovative possibilities and help others through the brain’s mirror neurons? Perhaps old jobs no longer exist – but those who laugh are closer to novel initiatives that could become  jobs to lead in a new era.

Stopped in your tracks by pressures from financial woes? Tired of a job that’s going nowhere? Without good ideas to lead your innovation? Let laughter crack you up and stir up new aha moments when you need them most. Much more than coping, you can discover new initiatives through comedy, because a lighthearted attitude often brings eureka moments of unexpected inspiration. Research shows that with humor the brain increases activity in your anterior cingulated cortex, in preparation for problem solving.

When I taught at McGill University, and worked with Inuit leaders in the most Northern communities on Baffin Island, we laughed a lot. Especially when my English smacked up against their Inuktitut in ways that neither language made sense, laughter gave us meaning and communication beyond words.

Humor melds insights across ages, bridges beliefs, and draws the best from brains, often separated by barriers few can cross well. Researcher, Karuna Subramaniam at Northwestern University found that people with a more positive or lighthearted perspective stay focused better on one strategy and also shift brain activity to discover novel solutions. Have you seen it?

If tensions flee in the wake of a simple joke, and brainpower boost over a funny faux pas, what holds you back at work? Laughter may be the best balancing elixir of the human brain, and yet still tops the missing -list in most workplaces. Does hilarity hail from your circles to replace the doom that comes from media or fellow workers?

If you cut up over one-liners – you’ve likely also seen humor’s upshot to your brain when laughter leads to insight. You may not know however, that humor’s especially effective when people laugh at themselves. Laugh to lift morale, reduce tension or communicate differences in side-splitting style, and expect innovation to follow.

The man behind the hilarious memes, Ben Huh, gets 170 million visits to his online site daily because it gives 5 minutes of laughter a day. Not surprisingly, participants consistently rank humorous speakers as most effective, and humorous peers as favorite. Do you? Interestingly, while research also shows how lectures tend to work against human brains, at the same time, humor open minds to learn and retain more.

Unfortunately, some still wield humor to diminish people who differ, yet self-deprecating humor often attracts unity from differences. At its best, humor disarms people from attacking ideas presented, so that comments and questions pop up to replace circular counter arguments that that fail to find conclusions.

You needn’t develop the skills of a successful stand up comedian to see laughter work in your favor. Bantering can also increase a person’s chances for promotion, can ease negotiations in arduous meetings, and can even build trust among colleagues or clients. Have you seen it happen?

Simply because humor involves additional operations and areas of the brain, it can also help people to remember more information, and can aid a person’s transfer from cutting edge theories into highly competitive practices.

Experts recommend humor to release endorphins, trigger health, increase relaxation, and alter brain chemicals in the direction of winning. How so?

1. Release endorphins into the brain so that pain can be reduced, and people appear happily distracted from difficult situations.

2. Trigger health by stimulating the immune system and connecting mind and body exchanges in positive and healthier ways.

3. Increase relaxation through added oxygen to the brain, better air exchange and fuel for deeper thought or learning.

4. Alter chemicals within the brain, in ways that reduce stress, lift emotions and contribute to and sustains a sense of well being.

Check out recent research on laughter’s exilir effects as it ratchets up both emotional and mental health, and you’ll likely set an agenda to bring more deliberate humor into your life and workplace.

Laughter may be the best balancing elixir of the human brain, and yet still tops the missing -list in most workplaces. Does hilarity hail from your circles to replace the doom that comes from media or fellow workers?

Stopped in your tracks by pressures from financial woes? Tired of a job that’s going nowhere? Without good ideas to lead your innovation? Let laughter crack you up and stir up new aha moments when you need them most. Much more than coping, you can discover new initiatives through comedy, because a lighthearted attitude often brings eureka moments of unexpected inspiration. Research shows that with humor the brain increases activity in your anterior cingulated cortex, in preparation for problem solving.

When I taught at McGill University, and worked with Inuit leaders in the most Northern communities on Baffin Island, we laughed a lot. Especially when my English smacked up against their Inuktitut in ways that neither language made sense, laughter gave us meaning and communication beyond words.

Humor melds insights across ages, bridges beliefs, and draws the best from brains, often separated by barriers few can cross well. Researcher, Karuna Subramaniam at Northwestern University found that people with a more positive or lighthearted perspective stay focused better on one strategy and also shift brain activity to discover novel solutions. Have you seen it?

If tensions flee in the wake of a simple joke, and brainpower boost over a funny faux pas, what holds you back at work? Laughter may be the best balancing elixir of the human brain, and yet still tops the missing -list in most workplaces. Does hilarity hail from your circles to replace the doom that comes from media or fellow workers?

If you cut up over one-liners – you’ve likely also seen humor’s upshot to your brain when laughter leads to insight. You may not know however, that humor’s especially effective when people laugh at themselves. Laugh to lift morale, reduce tension or communicate differences in side-splitting style, and expect innovation to follow.

The man behind the hilarious memes, Ben Huh, gets 170 million visits to his online site daily because it gives 5 minutes of laughter a day. Not surprisingly, participants consistently rank humorous speakers as most effective, and humorous peers as favorite. Do you? Interestingly, while research also shows how lectures tend to work against human brains, at the same time, humor open minds to learn and retain more.

Unfortunately, some still wield humor to diminish people who differ, yet self-deprecating humor often attracts unity from differences. At its best, humor disarms people from attacking ideas presented, so that comments and questions pop up to replace circular counter arguments that that fail to find conclusions.

You needn’t develop the skills of a successful stand up comedian to see laughter work in your favor. Bantering can also increase a person’s chances for promotion, can ease negotiations in arduous meetings, and can even build trust among colleagues or clients. Have you seen it happen?

Simply because humor involves additional operations and areas of the brain, it can also help people to remember more information, and can aid a person’s transfer from cutting edge theories into highly competitive practices.

Experts recommend humor to release endorphins, trigger health, increase relaxation, and alter brain chemicals in the direction of winning. How so?

1. Release endorphins into the brain so that pain can be reduced, and people appear happily distracted from difficult situations.

2. Trigger health by stimulating the immune system and connecting mind and body exchanges in positive and healthier ways.

3. Increase relaxation through added oxygen to the brain, better air exchange and fuel for deeper thought or learning.

4. Alter chemicals within the brain, in ways that reduce stress, lift emotions and contribute to and sustains a sense of well being.

Check out recent research on laughter’s exilir effects as it ratchets up both emotional and mental health, and you’ll likely set an agenda to bring more deliberate humor into your life and workplace.

20 Comments

  1. I can remember that when we worked in China, Mr. Lee, who didn’t quite speak English as fluently as others picked up on two words you seemed to say frequently, “very deeply.” Each time he spoke to you, he made sure to say, “very deeply,” and that made all of us laugh, especially Mr. Lee. It was fun to discover that our Chinese friends also enjoyed a good laugh with us. Made our time together ever so much richer.

  2. eweber says:

    What a- yes! Maybe it’s why leaders here at the Mita Brain Center love to learn from other cultures, and from people who toss in differences that add to laughter! Thanks for bringing back that wonderful memory, Robyn!

    Have you noticed that when you laugh with others, the memory zooms back in similar settings, and you find yourself in a lighthearted mood? Imagine what more laughter could bring to the plummeting economy, if we replaced the market gloom – with genuine laughter that begins to rebuild trust!

  3. Hi Ellen,

    Love this! You are speaking my language. I believe humor is so natural to health, that even humor that belittles is a low-level attempt at coping with diversity that is too much for someone’s current level of psychological health or maturity, or works an attempt at releasing psychological resistance that is producing stress.

    At the higher levels of psychological health, humor tunes us up, and as you have pointed out, releases locks on gates that will allow us to pass through to higher cognitive levels of processing and synthesis.

    And who hasn’t laughed themselves to tears? At some point, we must admit that both the tears of laughter and of sadness amount to a release of the sort that allows breakthroughs or relief from shackles of resistance that are holding us back from either healing or new directions.

    Thanks for another great post.

    ~MKP

  4. eweber says:

    Wow Mark – I love your notion of releasing locks on gates to allow a passing through to higher cognitive levels of processing and synthesis.

    In fact – I suggest a cool blog on that concept at “Every Day Life Blog” ( http://www.successwaypoint.com/EDL_BLOG/BLOG.php ) – in order to elaborate a bit more on both the open gates and the passing through.

    Any examples, for instance, of what both look like as an asset to motivate more humor at work?

  5. Kelly Ray says:

    I have also used humor and laughter strategy (staying sincere, off course) to elicit response from the unresponsive teen that has been sent to me in a counseling situation. Some of them have been crisis-oriented. What I saw beginning to happen is that the client witnessed me starting out with a laid-back and non-intrusive orientation with him/her. Starting conversation with idle things about life that led to things that made us laugh. If if they weren’t laughing, I would be. Just the release of my warmth and ease to be myself invited them to be trusting of me as if some tinkerbell dust had been sprinkled over them and they eased into a position that allowed them to talk. Wouldn’t guarantee with every resistant client but my point is that laughter and humor (gentle kind) is a home that everyone wants to be able to go to – it is an essential element of effective counseling.

  6. Gwyn Teatro says:

    Ellen, I loved this post ( just *looking* at your grandson makes me smile). I have long believed in the benefits of laughter and, luckily since I was a small child I have always seemed to be able to see the funny side of just about every situation.
    A little while ago I stumbled onto a video of John Cleese and a laughter Club in India. You may have seen it, but just in case you, or your readers, have not, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXEfjVnYkqM
    Thank you for this :-)

  7. eweber says:

    Great use of humor Kelly – thanks for sharing it! Love your notion of trust building and can see why humor works so well here.

    What a terrific metaphor that describes what research would support in humor as a home that all want to go to. Resistant adults are likely more like resistant teens than not – and most people shun the workplace they go to daily – according to recent polls.

    Cool work you are doing and so glad you stepped into the conversation!

  8. eweber says:

    Gwyn, thanks for your notice ( just *looking* at your grandson makes me smile). We had so much fun and he makes me laugh at everything! His parents love to laugh too – and of course we know that through mirror neurons – laughter spreads. :-)

    Like you – I too see benefits of laughter daily, and like you I’m usually able to see the funny side of most situations.

    What a funny (and reminder to laugh) video of John Cleese’s laughter Club in India. Thanks for leaving the URL – there could be a business idea here for the kind of new jobs few have now – yet most crave:-)

  9. Ellen – Your post got me thinking that humor is, in and of itself, an innovation, a creative act. To see a situation, other than slapstick or blatant physical acts, as funny usually comes from taking a different perspective. So humor is neither the cause nor the effect of innovation. It is both and.

    Thanks for keeping our brains chugging
    Anne

  10. eweber says:

    Anne, it makes my day to nudge your thoughts along and then to see where your insights take us all. Love your notion of a different perspective. Often, the best humor comes from sticking two things together that normally don’t go together – I agree. Cool.

    Want to reflect more thoughtfully on your notion of humor as “neither the cause nor the effect of innovation. It is both and.” Wow – imagine if that thought could take center stage for the innovation initiatives we are building to include a genuine gift of humor. Ok – you have me chugging now Dr. Perschel! Thanks for weighing in on why we should laugh more!

  11. Yes, fantastic article, thankyou!
    I am a Joyologist and run Laughter Workshops in mainly in the corporate and health sectors. I can tell you from my first hand experience of 10 years of running laughter workshops, that Laughter WORKS!!
    During my workshops, one of the most obvious things I have noticed, is how quickly people become more connected to each other.
    It’s true, we who play together, stay together!
    When we feel happy we laugh, so if we laugh, we will feel happy. When we smile or laugh, the muscles in our cheeks stimulate our brains to release endorphins whether we are actually laughing or just faking it! So go on, fake it till you make it!

  12. eweber says:

    Bronwen, thanks for the kind words, and for your leadership in areas that move us from the tone away from joy and laughter – so that people fail to find and design answers for their lives.

    What an intriguing insight – to see people connected to each other. Wow! Looking back to the week I just enjoyed with my little grandson – I realize it was laughter that bonded us in remarkable ways that week. Hopefully the news and organizations he connects to will not take that easy laughter from Hendrik as it seems to have done to so many.

    I too have found that to laugh is a decision often – especially when stressors hit. Yet to laugh is to walk past problems and lead innovation on the other side.

    I too am relearning this fact, and thankful that research supports it as do experts in the field such as you are. Thanks for sharing your views!

  13. Ellen — This is a lovely and provocative article. I’m glad you made the connection to trust, and noted that laughter itself can both relieve tension and also be used as part of a put-down. Not so fun to think about, but real. “Can’t you take a joke?” can be a cruel and controlling line. That said, the beauty of laughter to me is the sense of perspective it offers, freeing us from taking ourselves or the universe too seriously. My sense is that laughter in a group often creates psychological safety and it is that safety that enables people to reach out to one another with higher openness, self-disclosure and vulnerability, and the reaching out in turn creates the trust. Thanks for inviting me to your stimulating post!

  14. Ellen Weber says:

    Dan, I so agree that not all humor builds trust. Humor that is not skilled – or not from an intrapersonally intelligent person — can rip another person apart.

    Would would agree that the humor we have cultivated in our nation is generally the latter? If so – how might er begin to restore the kind of humor that builds bridges and heals the brain? Thoughts?

  15. In reply to your question, I would say good humor is “generous” to others and puts the laugh first on yourself or on an “us” that is totally inclusive. In your example of moments of misunderstanding with Inuit leaders, it was at no one’s expense or everyone’s expense, or at your own expense, but it sounds like it never highlighted anyone else’s characteristics, mistakes or flaws. The latter represents a very insecure, negative type of humor designed as a “gotcha,” “zinger,” or opportunity to be superior.

    Ellen, your notion that our nation has cultivated this type of negative humor saddens me. I agree, and know that the way out of that is for all of us to notice moments of humor to see if everyone is enjoying the joke or only a few. I think because of the values tensions in our national community, humor is used sometimes as a weapon, and that’s a sure sign that people are not connected and humor is actively working as a tool of polarization.

    It can be hard to take a stand, to rule out some forms of humor precisely because they are, afterall, about something that’s supposed to be fun, something that automatically seems like it should be helpful. The person who says, “I don’t think that’s funny” can be judged and ostracized, but when that’s done well it’s an act of real leadership, and it can inspire a deeper level of community itself. The trick is to take that stand in a way that’s firm but also compassionate, that bucks the tide of negative humor by setting a positive boundary; that’s done in a way that treasures people and connections and isn’t righteous or alienating, that’s both gentle and clear.

  16. eweber says:

    Love your notion, Dan: “The trick is to take that stand in a way that’s firm but also compassionate, that bucks the tide of negative humor by setting a positive boundary; that’s done in a way that treasures people and connections and isn’t righteous or alienating, that’s both gentle and clear.”

    Also love the way you model personally such leadership.

    Think of the innocence of little Hendrik who is learning to laugh without using laughter as a weapon, and wonder how we rewired a nation’s brainpower as we did. Better still, how might we restore the fun and innocence to laughter as a connector or peace maker rather than a weapon or war maker.

  17. Frank Sargent says:

    All of my life has been filled with fun and laughter. It keeps me young.

  18. […] Drop best practices in favor of play – along with humor – added daily to improve one routine […]

  19. […] The effects of laughter not only release endorphins, and get more oxygen to your brain it also helps you learn. Which is why this week on twitter you will find many of the GRE word of the day (#gre #wotd) […]

  20. […] you can boost brainpower to find more equity, over a funny faux pas, what holds you back at work? A Brain on Laughter may be the best balancing elixir of the human brain, and yet still tops the missing -list in most […]

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