Laughing all the way to the bank

“There is little success, where there is little laughter.”

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When was the last time you had a good old, hearty belly laugh when you guffawed with carefree abandon? According to a study by Dr Michael Titze, a German Psychologist, people used to laugh an average of 18 minutes a day in the 50s. Today, that’s down to four to six minutes a day.

In another study conducted by the researcher, Dr Lesley Harbidge of the University of Glamorgan, infants can laugh aloud as many as 300 times every day, compared to people in their twenties, who laugh four times a day, people in their fifties, who laugh three times a day on average and sixty-year-olds, who only manage to belly laugh a mere two-and-a-half times.

No matter what age you are, and whether you laugh according to the study average or not, just consider how running a business or leading teams can make life become even more serious and far less funny.

I recently met up with Bronwyn Kilroe, Cape Town’s very own Laughter Coach, to find out why it is so important to laugh and whether you can really laugh your business to success? Could laughter impact a company’s reputation?

What exactly is a Laughter Coach?

I create happy, productive teams through laughter skills.

Why is it important to laugh?

Laughter is the best medicine because every time you laugh out loud, you dramatically improve your physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. Scientific studies and research clearly prove the positive and therapeutic effects of laughter on boosting health, happiness and well-being. Best of all, this “Ha Ha” medicine is fun and easy to use.

Why should people invest in a Laughter Coach?

For business success, laughter is a business asset. Laughter is a serious business! No joke! In a recent study, Forbes reported that happy employees were at least 50% more productive in their jobs. The happiness of your employees directly affects your bottom line because happy employees are productive employees. One of the quickest and easiest ways to create happy employees is with regular Laughter Workshops. It is more than just laughing, it is a science-based methodology, designed to empower and educate teams with practical stress management laughter skills that they can use in their daily life, at work and at home. Participants are armed with skills that help them to work under pressure, cope with stress, deal with change and boost their workplace performance, producing immediate results.

Finding humour in everyday situations in the workplace is an excellent antidote to stress as it helps to diffuse difficult situations, lightens your burdens and keeps you positive, no matter what obstacles you are facing. Humour helps with team morale and engagement levels. A workplace that feels fun and friendly will enhance employee happiness and productivity and reduce absenteeism rates.Appropriate humour also helps to break down barriers and is a wonderful way to break the ice with clients, customers or colleagues. Humour connects us with others, diffuses conflicts and encourages teams to work together.

How did you become a Laughter Coach?

I was first introduced to the concept of Laughter Coaching when I was a Television Director and doing an insert on Dr Madan Kataria, the founder of Laughter Sessions. I was blown away that this medical doctor from India was providing lots of research and scientifically proven benefits that laughter has on the human body; mentally, emotionally and physically. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, more people really need to know about this information to help them cope with life’. Coming from a corporate background in the high-pressure film and television industry, I met many unhappy, stressed-out, depressed, anxious and overwhelmed people who were struggling to cope with the stressors of life, but not succeeding. The purpose of life is to be happy and find joy. Unfortunately for many people, this is nowhere near to their reality. I then had my ‘aha!’ moment and decided to become a Laughter Coach, to help unhappy people rediscover their smile and remember how good it feels to laugh.

When people hear that you are a Laughter Coach, what is it that they think you do?

They think that I am going to tell jokes to make them laugh. However, a Laughter Workshop is based on the concept that anyone can laugh, for no reason at all, without using jokes, humour or comedy. You don’t need to feel good to laugh and you don’t need to have a sense of humour to laugh.

A Laughter Workshop teaches people how to laugh ‘without intellect’ and allows you to achieve sustained, hearty laughter without involving cognitive thought. It bypasses the intellectual systems that normally act as a brake on natural laughter. Once released, natural laughter is difficult to stop.

It is founded on the concept of ‘faking it, till you make it’ and based on the scientific fact that the body cannot distinguish between fake, simulated laughter and real, genuine laughter. This means any time you laugh, whether real laughter or simulated, fake laughter, your body still releases endorphins and serotonin (happy, feel-good hormones) into your bloodstream, which I call the ‘happy cocktail’.

Scientific studies and research clearly prove that this ‘happy cocktail’, produced by prolonged laughter, dramatically improves your overall health and happiness.

The exercises are done in a group because laughter is contagious, so the fake laughter quickly turns into genuine shrieks, howls, roars and fits of chuckles and giggles.

What is the one lesson that you want people to take away from your workshops?

Everything you want is because you think you will feel happier if you had it. So, why don’t you go straight to feeling happy by just laughing more? Because laughter instantly makes you happy.

If you can approach all situations you encounter with laughter, you can literally laugh your way to health, happiness and success. So, take time every day to laugh more, laugh as often as possible, do things that feel fun, do what makes you happy and be with the people who make you smile. Life is supposed to be fun. You are supposed to feel good. You are supposed to be happy and a daily dose of chuckles and giggles is the key ingredient to achieving this.

“We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we are happy because we laugh.” ~ William James

What should people know about being a Laughter Coach?

Being a Laughter Coach is my life purpose and passion. I love to inspire, uplift and encourage people to follow their dreams, to have fun and to do what makes them feel good.

It is my mission to transform lives, one laugh at a time. Seeing the transformation in the corporate teams I work with, before and after a Laughter Workshop, is pure bliss for me. They arrive stressed, anxious, depressed and then to see their frowns turn into smiles of joy and happiness, and to hear the roars, shrieks and chuckles whilst enjoying some good belly laughs together is a pure delight.

My core focus is working with corporate teams, however, I have just returned from facilitating laughter workshops with 800 miners.

I upskill them with practical stress management skills and empower them with practical positive tools for them to use in their daily lives.

Feedback from participants is that the relationships with their colleagues have blossomed, marriages have been saved, health issues have been cured, workplace motivation and productivity have increased and they are teaching the simulated laughter techniques to their families, friends and children. I have heard from others that they practise the laughter exercises when stuck in traffic or feeling stressed out at work, and this confirms that I am on the right journey, it is priceless.

How do you maintain your own sense of humour?

I actively look for humorous situations every day and try to see the funny, lighter side of the situation or the irony and absurdity of life. When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change, and finding humour in challenging situations helps you to step back from the problem, reduces your stress, gives you a new perspective and helps you to cope with the difficulty you are facing. I also watch lots of comedies and funny sitcoms and regularly spend time with positive friends who easily make me laugh out loud. I also remind myself often to lighten up and not take myself or life so seriously.

Do you have any tips on how to develop a sense of humour?

At the end of each day, ask your family or friends what the funniest thing was that happened during the day. Sharing these funny moments will get you laughing together in no time. When you are feeling depressed or sad, just plaster a big fake smile on your face and within a few minutes, you will start to feel better.

When companies really care about the happiness of their employees, they can increase staff productivity and performance, leading to improving the bottom line—these are factors that also contribute positively to an organisation’s reputation. Isn’t it funny that something as simple as laughing could be the secret ingredient to take your business’ reputation to the next level, creating a win-win scenario for the company and your colleagues’ general health? 

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