Tuesday 21 October 2014


I went to an excellent workshop on Laughter this weekend, run by Robin Graham of Feelgood Communities.

This is something I have long been interested in: I first took laughter seriously as a learning and development intervention, after coming across C W Metcalf and his work on Humour, Risk and Change (which I have mentioned before).

Here's a flavour of Metcalf:

Both Robin Graham and C W Metcalf make a strong - and very funny - case for the value of humour. 

The personal benefits of regular laughter are increasingly recognised by the research; and Robin gave us a summary of some of the latest research emerging. The beneficial release of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine are apparently well-documented, as is the reduction in the stress-related hormones, cortisol and adrenalin. Apparently our immune system is also boosted by regular laughter, and the researchers are now working to understand the ways in which laughter helps us bond with others.

It is fascinating to note the role of laughter in a baby's life: long before it is registering humour, the incongruous, unexpected or absurd - which are the classic triggers of laughter in adults.

Laughter, as Robin pointed out in his four word lecture, is a release.

That was it: as lectures go it was remarkably concise and clear. We then laughed a lot, and discussed laughter a lot more, including its capacity to bring people right into the present moment, and to open themselves up to each other. There is something vulnerable about genuine laughter - which is one of the reasons we learn to suppress it. Young children, of course, need no excuse to laugh, and they laugh several times a day. As we get older, we may lose both the spontaneity and the frequency.

So I am keen to involve more laughter in my work, both for its innate benefits for the individuals, but also for other reasons. Laughter helps form relationships between people (except for bullying laughter, which is quite different). Also, because of the links between laughter and the incongruous, unexpected or absurd, I think it helps people to view situations differently, opening up possibilities for creative thinking that may help solve problems in new ways.

But quite how I am going to do that, I am not yet sure. There is something about forced laughter that seems very counter-productive, and I have seen too many trainers fall into that trap. So I would be interested in others' views and experiences.

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