I’ve had a couple of great belly laughs this week. Two, in particular, stand out in my mind, but for very different reasons.

The first was with a client who rang me, sobbing, having just broken up with her long-term partner. I listened without interruption or judgment. Over time she identified some small goals to get her through the next week and developed an actionable plan to achieve them. Moreover, when I felt the time was right, I made a few gently cheeky comments that were respectful of the situation, yet might help change her mood, even if just momentarily, by breaking it with a laugh. We ended the phone call in a very different way to how it started – and laughter is, as they say, the best medicine, especially when there is very little else that can heal a broken heart.

The second was with a client who rang me, highly stressed and speaking at a million miles an hour, having just, in her words, barely survived another week at her high-pressure job. Once again, the opportunity to switch the mood at the appropriate time to inject it with laughter opened itself up – and it turns out that a good giggle with me had a domino effect on the rest of her day.

That is not to say I use jokes or humor as a means to all ends. However, I understand and use the power of laughter, both in my personal and professional life, understanding that it can help improve someone’s mental health because:

(1) laughter relieves sad or distressing emotions. It moves your focus and attention from negative thoughts. You cannot feel anxious, angry, or unhappy when you’re in the middle of a deep belly laugh. It also helps to replace negative thoughts with positive ones;

(2) laughter relaxes your mind and recharges your energy. A good laugh can reduce stress and help you stay focused;

(3) laughter improves your problem-solving skills. It can help you see another view of an issue, thus allowing you to find different ways to tackle problems.

Laughter has been described as the sixth sense and the key to a happy life. Picture a baby – before she or he can say “Mumma” or “Dadda” they instinctively know to laugh and bring joy to themselves and others.

“You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.”

Claire E. Bibby is an active and influential Australian coach, based in Sydney, New South Wales. She specializes in working with professionals to empower them to move their career, leadership, and personal dreams into active, actionable, pursuits. Claire also publicly speaks and facilitates discussions about a range of topics from high performing teams, psychologically healthy workplaces, coaching, sponsorship and mentoring, dispute resolution, and supporting women with their leadership and financial goals. She empowers others to bring about real and sustainable change, both individually, professionally and at an organizational level.

By Claire E. Bibby

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