Originally written for Laughter Yoga leaders to help break down perceived barriers to delivering laughter sessions to a corporate audience.
My previous life involved a corporate career in HR and Learning until I realised my need to hit the ‘reboot’ button. That’s when I found Laughter Yoga, through choosing to ‘do more things that made me smile’.
I recently attended an USPIRE leadership conference, exploring what future challenges leaders will face. Taking a day to learn and reflect, I sat back to enjoy some brilliant speakers. First up was Malcolm Smith and ‘Leading through Technology’. Pleasingly about how leaders will benefit from focusing more on what makes us human and how to spend time in our right brain (the more intuitive and creative side). It’s our humanity and creativity that can’t be automated or optimised by robots and incidentally, the right side that activates when we laugh.
Second, the importance of dealing with ambiguity and developing emotional resilience with David Wilkinson (another laughter light bulb moment!) There I was, reading ‘Fight – Flight – Freeze’ on screen and hearing the speaker explain our physical stress response when I get a tap on the shoulder. It’s Amanda Downs, one of the organisers (who I met when delivering a ‘Life Hacks to Live Lighter’ workshop – Hack #1 being to ‘laugh for no reason’).
The stress response in action
Aware the energy had dipped in the room, Amanda asks if I’m up for leading a short energiser. The stress response is no longer theoretical; I’m painfully aware of my flushed cheeks and heart beating like the clappers. I’m no stranger to standing up in front of large groups – but usually, I’m prepared.
Too good an opportunity to miss, I agreed (even though the fireworks going off in my body were trying to convince me to choose differently). From zero to laughter, I gave the context that ‘change is coming’, but we’re human, and we don’t like change. The unknown makes us feel uncomfortable, unsafe and threatened – not great news for business going through change! But when we’re willing to take a risk, we take the chance to grow and fully experience life. In today’s world leaders must ask teams to navigate change, and one way to prepare and build resilience is to practice getting comfortable with uncomfortable. I gave the room an invitation to spend the next few minutes making a choice to feel a bit uncomfortable.
Laughter lightened the room
Diving into a laughter handshake as a new way to network, we blew laughter sounds into a stress balloon, bursting them to release our laughter along with the message that we have a choice of how to respond to any given situation. If we practice responding in a more ‘light-hearted’ way, it helps build resilience. We really pushed comfort boundaries by jumping in laughter cars and taking a drive.
A few individuals chose not to engage, but my brief was to shift the energy. An obvious ‘job done’ as people sat back down – you could see the smiles, feel the energy and see that they were more open to learn and receive the next agenda item. Laughter magic in action!
Sitting down, adrenalin pumping, I remembered all the things I’d meant to say. I’m glad I didn’t choose ‘safe’ – I felt uncomfortable and invited the room to feel something similar. Sharing an emotional experience enabled the group to connect on a more human level. The corporate audience can seem scary and unreachable, so it’s good to remember that we’re all people, with emotions and the same biological feel-good response to laughter. As long as you’re clear on the ‘why’ and lead the way, let the laughter do the hard work.
Photo credit: Jodie Humphries, Freelance Digital Marketing Extraordinaire
With Light Mind, Tabitha is on a mission to help people make new choices to feel better through laughter, carefree singing and encouraging playfulness. Because when we feel better, we do better.
Light Mind delivers ‘You’re having a laugh‘ which works as a positive addition to a Wellbeing day or Wellness event, or a team-building or team offsite event that enables attendees to feel good, connect as a team and realise we have a choice in where to invest our energy and the impact of this on personal wellbeing, performance and organisational culture.