Get Laughing New Jersey!

August 5, 2009

Wendy Liscow, Program Officer

laughter best medicine

Lately, I have been in need of a good laugh.  It seems like everywhere I turn, there is something serious to consider, some dire situation that needs attention, some problem to be solved.  Now I am not suggesting that I can laugh away these challenges, or should use laughter for escape.  Or maybe I am.  Shouldn’t laughter and humor be one of the primary tools in every non-profit’s arsenal to combat daily challenges?

In fact, one of the (many) things I admire about David Grant’s leadership of the Dodge Foundation is his ability to create an environment where humor and laughter are encouraged.    When things get stressful someone on staff will undoubtedly turn on the humor valve to release some of the pressure.   We are even blessed with a long-time board member who comes prepared with a new joke for every Board meeting and demonstrates a sixth sense for knowing the exact moment a little levity is needed.

Whole new mindIt is surprising to me that laughter isn’t considered a standard management tool.  Daniel Pink, in his 2005 groundbreaking book, A Whole New Mind:  Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future , suggests that American workers will need to adapt to be competitive in the 21st century global economy.  In this new “Conceptual Age,” (as opposed to the Industrial Age and recent Information Age) American  workers will need to be creative and bring meaning to their work and the products they are creating.  In an era when most of the “left-brain jobs” are outsourced overseas or being done by a computer or a machine we must complement our left-brain reasoning (think logical, linear, analytical thinking) by developing skills that are the purview of right-brain action (think big picture, systems thinking, creative problem solving and innovation.)

Pink proposes that every individual should cultivate six aptitudes (design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning)  to develop right-brain capacity and ultimately increase probability of carving a spot in this new workforce.

In the chapter on “Play,” Pink elevates the importance of humor in the workplace.   He says “It’s time to rescue humor from its status as mere entertainment and recognize it for what it is: a sophisticated and peculiarly human form of intelligence that can’t be replicated by computers and that is becoming increasingly valuable in a high-concept, high-touch world.”

Mr. Pink also recognizes that being a skilled humorist is not a prerequisite for laughter and presented the work of Dr. Madan Kataria and his wife Madhuri who, in 1995, began one of the largest growing holistic health movements:  Laughter Yoga.

This is an exercise program I might be able to stick to! I tried it in the privacy of my home and immediately felt the benefit of feeling more joyful.  No, it didn’t make my problems go away, but I certainly felt more open and creative about approaching them.   Don’t take my word for it, check out this video with funny man John Cleese as he tours to Mumbai to see Dr. Kataria in action.

The Laughter Yoga website lists laughing clubs around the world and training sessions, but by just watching a few of the videos you can get started.

No Money Laughter:

Laugh Dance and Clap:

There over 6,000 laughing clubs in over 60 countries, though there are only four in New Jersey.  I think Jersey needs to get laughing!

How does laughter play a part in your life at work and at home?

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