Laughing Matters: Using Humor as a Healthy Habit

Program Description: Laughing Matters: Using Humor as a Healthy Habit – 10/18/08 – 1:15-2:45 – Program Slides

Humor and laughter have long been used to cope with anxiety, pain and crisis and can also be used to alleviate workplace stress. Recent studies show how humor works those miracles. Licensed social worker Jane de Colgyll discusses the effects of stress, the healing qualities of humor and laughter, and ways to bring these qualities into our lives.

Impressions –

Jane de Colgyll was an effervescent and lively person to start the conference off with. Her program was light, though the topic is serious, and she made us move. Getting on our feet and thinking creatively is something not often seen at professional conferences and, in my opinion, really should be encouraged. Most of the session involved hands-on activities in groups, though she did spend some time in the beginning of the health benefits of laughter and important guidelines for healing humor. The issue of the effects of stress wasn’t directly addressed like the benefits of humor. The only thing I would liked to have seen were some thoughts on how to defuse negativity in the workplace when simply having humor there isn’t enough. But, I recognize that that may be a different discussion and would certainly require more time.

Session Notes –

Jane de Colgyll is a licensed social worker with AllOne Health Employee Assistance Program doing part clinical work and part program development for workplaces. The work we will do for this program is both participatory and hands on and she gets an early commitment to contribute from the group. She is associated with libraries both through her daughter who works in a library in Ohio and her sister who is a librarian in Singapore.

Especially in the current economic times it’s important to laugh to relieve the stress. But, it’ crucial not to be insulting but be able to laugh at yourself. Keeping life in perspective is the ticket. Things that are stressful become funny when you change the perspective that you are looking from. She referenced Joel Goodman and The Humor Project as a good source of stories relating to this line of thinking. “Instead of grin and bear it, grin and share it.”

There are a myriad of physical benefits of laughter from improved immune function, heart health, relaxation, muscle conditioning, oxygen efficiency. The bottom line is that laughter heals, mind and body.

It is important to remember to use humor as a tool not a weapon, making things better rather than making problems. Workplace humor needs to be both appropriate and light.

Activity 1 –

The first group activity was 9 people in 3 groups of 3 – whiners, exaggerators, and redirectors . The point was to poke fun at all the kinds of negativity and complaints we make as a profession and turn it into a laugh.

Whiners –

Patrons smell – I didn’t get my MLS to point out the bathroom – we work nights and weekends but get no overtime – the sign says turn off your freaking cell phone.

Exagerators –

We’re paid mere pennies – she was hovering over me with her cell phone – it’s like there is no such thing as parenting anymore.

Redirectors –

It doesn’t look as bad as it sounds – we can accommodate the people with our cell area, they just don’t use it – we’ve been working to improve that – there’s always something good in everything bad

Activity 2 –

The second activity involved the whole room in groups of 4-5. We were charged with creating a tagline, like “army strong” is for the army, about the mission of libraries and then create a cheer to perform for the group using the tagline. Though I didn’t get the whole taglines because I was participating myself, the heart of the lines were: we’re not quiet, know it alls, have it all, heart of the community, and a couple that emphasized library resources through words starting with “E” or “L” as part of their cheer. Most of the performances were skits or singing.

Activity 3 –

The final activity also involved the whole room in 3 teams. We were given extra large post-it notes and asked how we inject humor into our workplaces. The object was to be the group with the most ideas on sticky notes at the end. We all had a good laugh when we read them and stickers, prizes and chocolate were enjoyed by all. Below are the results of the post-it session, with the instructor caveat that some are not really appropriate, but there are here in their entirety regardless. You be the judge!

Team 1

  • Librarian trading cards
  • Green St. Patty’s Day potlucks
  • Edible book titles
  • Yankee (re)gift swap
  • Dress as your favorite author
  • Dress as your favorite character
  • Wii/Gaming night
  • Safe sex day
  • Dirty READ posters
  • Boxing Day (not the Canadian kind)
  • Performance evaluations with Dilbert puppets
  • Puppets in general
  • Subscribe to Unshelved
  • Sniff your markers
  • Plastic snakes/bugs
  • Funny shirt day
  • Subscribe to joke a day
  • Show your tattoos day
  • Dopey patron stories
  • Fake library journal covers for staff
  • April 1st Staff news

Team 2

  • Take turns as director for a day
  • Top 10 stupid reference questions
  • Pub quiz
  • Fun house mirror in the entrance
  • Turn directors office into mini golf
  • Patron free day
  • Let patrons answer telephones
  • Dress up day
  • Read Will Manley’s column every month
  • Sensible shoe day
  • Hang balloons on the monitors
  • Charge fines in Euros
  • Hang up comics
  • Smiley stickers
  • Write silly screensavers
  • Eliminate all employee evaluations
  • Official Director memo ordering humor in the workplace
  • Run staff meetings with finger puppets

Team 3

  • Dress up for holidays
  • Laughter packages (like care packages)
  • Nitrous in the ventilation
  • Participate in ridiculous holidays
  • Laugh at self first in teaching library services
  • Lighthearted loud speaker announcements
  • Blue light special on new books
  • Themed tees, buttons, bags, etc.
  • Laughter lunches
  • Humor bulletin board
  • Watch “Who’s on first” Abbott & Costello once a year
  • Fun house mirrors in the bathrooms
  • Spirit week
  • Patron nicknames
  • Tiaras on birthdays
  • B.U.M. Committee (Boost Up Morale)
  • Lolcat desktops
  • Pieces of flair

Finally, stressed spelled backwards is desserts.

Relax & Rejunvenate

I was going to go the session on Firefox, but I was sitting in the Southbridge Room at 3:45 PM when the presenter for the next session came along and started rearranging chairs. I started helping, decided to stay, and wow, am I glad I did! She opened the doors to let in some fresh air, turned out the lights, and put on some lovely instrumental music (possibly Enya?). The session drew about twenty people.

Joanne Barnes, a licensed massage therapist practicing in Holden, MA, led us through some light massage techniques, a few stretching exercises, and a tense and relax meditation exercise, presenting us with handouts on hand and foot reflexology and a great list of tips (some common sense, some pampering) to reduce stress:

  1. Get light exercise every day
  2. Eat healthy
  3. Talk with an old friend
  4. Laugh
  5. Find quiet time for yourself
  6. Hydrotherapy
  7. Get enough sleep
  8. Listen to music
  9. Try yoga or stretching
  10. Treat yourself to a massage or facial
  11. Enjoy a hot cup of tea
  12. Take on a positive attitude
  13. Volunteer

We paired up and got to play with some neat massage tools and practice hand and foot rubs, as we felt comfortable. “This is the best session!” said on participant. “Yeah, forget that TECHNOLOGY stuff!” agreed another. We did a lot of laughing, and left feeling relaxed, and rejuvenated, indeed.

Joanne recommends the following book for those interested in stretching techniques: Stretching, by Bob Anderson (Shelter Press).