A Sense of Humour Is a Sense of Proportion – Khalil Gibran

Jennifer Osborne - Chief Wellbeing Officer - Bayleaf Wellness

We have heard it so often – but is laughter really the best medicine?

If you have ever read anything on the psychology of laughter you will know that there is so much more to it than this expression.

As a person who is well known for a boisterous laugh that has followed me throughout many workplaces, spaces and relationships throughout life, the most common comment I have heard over time is that my laugh continues to be the most missed.

Whilst early in my career there was the ultimate concern over developing a serious image and persona in the corporate workplace which included the accompanying self-consciousness, over time with an innate ability to not take myself too seriously there came the realisation that my laughter, particularly when in a position of power, made people feel more comfortable and safe to make mistakes. This led to a willingness to share their struggles and triumphs and built trusting and lifelong collegial relationships which have followed me to this day. My most prolific mentor during this time had the most wonderful wit and would do the most amazing impressions.

In his novel, The Anatomy of Illness, Norman Cousins believes that ‘hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors.’ The book documents his journey with the debilitating illness ankylosing spondylitis and his recovery. Relying on his research and books on the subject such as ‘The Stress of Life,’ by Hans Seyle’s he came to believe that negative emotions were linked to adrenal exhaustion. Emotions such as frustration, anger or suppressed rage were considered negative and conversely, positive emotions of love, laughter, and hope would yield healthy results.

Cousins recovered fully and lived to the age of 75 years.

Australian National University professors David Cheng and Lu Wang also suggest that exposure to humorous stimuli can actually help perseverance in completion of tedious tasks. Research has also found that humour can assist in recovery from stressful situations and can even increase pain tolerance.

In an effort to incorporate humour and play, companies such as Google and Virgin build areas for play into their workplace planning and organise events that are fun and considered to ameliorate stress and boost creativity, morale and productivity.

This is an essential element of Workplace Wellbeing that many companies need to incorporate to ensure