Behavioral Health

 Giggles, Gratitude and Grace

Last Updated: December 20, 2020
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The following articles touch on some of the positive effects humor, gratitude, and grace can have on health.

Maintaining an attitude of gratitude into the New Year!

As the New Year approaches, in the midst of the holiday seasons, it’s common to reflect on the past year. Thoughts may come to mind of the new strengths we found in the challenges faced, fond memories, and creativity discovered in the obstacles.  Regardless of your environment, your thoughts can impact your future.

Thinking differently can change your entire perspective. Having an “attitude of gratitude” can have a positive impact on our mind and health. Gratitude helps refocus your thoughts on what matters most in your life and can put you in a more positive frame of mind. It’s difficult to feel stressed or overwhelmed when you are counting your blessings. Remembering gratitude is not a one-time occurrence; it’s a way of choosing to live. Here are a few steps to help to express gratitude:

Write it down

• Reflect on the good things in your life, and write them down.
• Write down at least three things that you accomplished this year; reach out and thank the people that helped you to succeed.
• Send a gratitude text or handwritten note to someone expressing your gratitude.
• Acknowledge a coworker with a recognition award.

Make time for others

• Call a friend or family member you haven't spoken to in a while who has been on your mind. Share a word of encouragement.
• Volunteer to help a friend, family member, co-worker and/or charity. There are many ways that you can help virtually or while social distancing due to COVID-19. Be creative!

Be the leader

• Celebrate virtually. Organize a family gathering through digital platforms. Set up your personal computer, tablet or phone and share a meal together. Play virtual games and include all ages in the fun!
• Start a pay-it-forward chain. Paying it forward doesn't have to be monetary; paying a compliment to another is free. Your generosity can go a long way!
• Be the first to smile (even through a mask). Smiles are free and easy to give. Smiling can change your mind and others will sense the ease in your presence.

References

1. National Institutes of Health News in Health. 2019. Practicing Gratitude- Ways to Improve Positivity. Retrieved from: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/sites/nihNIH/files/2019/March/NIHNiHMar2019.pdfExternal Link
2. National Institutes of Health News in Health. 2016. Study: Gratitude is a healthy attitude. American Heart Association News November 21, 2016. Retrieved from: https://news.heart.org/study-gratitude-is-a-healthy-attitude/ External Link
3. Harvard Medical School. In Praise of Gratitude. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/in-praise-of-gratitudeExternal Link



Laughter to Boost Our Health

Do you know how many times a day you laugh? Do you consciously make time for fun? Humor has a positive effect on health. Laughter reduces stress, relaxes muscles, improves immune function, reduces pain perception, increases blood flow, and exercises the muscles in the face and torso. Laughter dissolves tension because laughter and tension cannot exist in your body at the same time. Besides the physical and mental benefits, there are also the social benefits to laughter. It strengthens relationships, defuses conflict, enhances teamwork and promotes personal bonding.  

What are ways to create opportunities to laugh? Watch funny, belly-laughing movies or TV shows. Hang out with folks with a sense of humor. Get a humor buddy and regularly connect with that person to share humor. Find and display a picture of yourself smiling or laughing out loud, and use the picture as a mirror. Play with a pet. Keep a humor journal to write down when you see something funny or have a funny thought. Spread the fun by sharing a good joke or story. Set a goal to choose to laugh whenever you can. Learn to laugh with compassion at yourself and at the things you do; like your foibles and quirks.

Studies have found that laughter can have healing properties. Here are six reasons why you should start laughing today:

• Laughter is contagious.
• Laughter reduces the stress response.
• Laughter boosts immunity.
• Laughter increases resilience
• Laughter combats depression.
• Laughter relieves pain.

With everything going on these days, it might be worth calling a friend that makes you laugh. Reaching out to longtime friends is a chance to catch up and share stories. Re-telling a story from the past can help to get the laughter going and the story usually gets better the more times it is told. A good laugh encourages you to be in the moment. When giggling, you are positive and concentrate on being happy and living in the moment. This might be the best medicine to help boost your health.

How leaders can encourage laughter

As videoconferencing, teleworking, and social distancing have become common place, one of the casualties of this increased isolation is laughter.  A surprising statistic is that 97% of the time we laugh with others and are 30 times more likely to laugh with others than to laugh alone.  The isolation the pandemic has imposed curtails social interaction, leading to decreased laughter --- so what can supervisors do to mitigate this and foster laughter in your virtual team?  Try these steps:

• Make time to use laughter to keep a team emotionally connected.
• Have team members attend meetings via VIDEO to encourage visual cues for laughter.
• SMILE a lot to give genuine signals that it is okay to laugh.
• Use a slightly higher voice pitch to set a lighter tone for the group.
• Laughter ignites laughter – set the example by laughing yourself.
• Get ready for meetings by laughing in advance by watching a funny video before the meeting starts.

Laughter can help you view the world from a more relaxed, positive, and joy-filled perspective. Check your laughter quotientExternal Link to see how you score with your laughter scale. 

References

1. Robinson, L., Smith, M. and Segal, J. (2019). Laughter is the Best Medicine.External Link    
2. Birmingham-Reyes, C. (2018) Why Laughter is the Best Medicine.External Link
3. Lechner, T. (2015) 6 Reasons Why Laughter is the Best Medicine.External Link    
4. Strean, W. (2009) Laughter PrescriptionExternal Link, Vol 55: October 2009 Canadian Family Physician.
5. Black, J. Stewart (2020) Laughter Will Keep Your Team Connected — Even While You’re ApartExternal Link, Harvard Business Review.