Scientists don’t yet understand exactly how laughing protects the cardiovascular system, but researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine do know that people who develop heart disease are 40% less likely to laugh in given situations, and that stress is related to damage in the protective lining of blood vessels.
What’s more, other studies from Stanford University medical school and the College of William and Mary show that humor stimulates the brain, especially the frontal lobe where we make decisions.
You can use humor in subtle ways to bring down stress.
Mike Oliver, a lawyer in Towson, Md., turns his public image as a worrywart into a better way to communicate moments of danger to his blood vessels—and maybe his co-workers.
“The character they most identify with me is the crispy orange M&M, the one who’s usually worried about everything,” he says. “So when I’m high-stressed about deals, I put a little version of him on the door outside my office so people know not to come in.”
Bottom line: Take a good look at the benefits of a half hour of fun here and there. Give it due consideration when your managers ask to close the office early on Fridays in summer, and leave employees free to gauge their own workloads and take part in fun events at their own discretion.
—Adapted from “Laugh out loud,” Rachel Bernstein, Baltimore Business Journal.