Resilience and Humour

There’s lots of good advice available on how to maintain your resilience for your wellbeing. It’s a topic I keep coming back to. With regular talk of the world moving at pace, that we live in a VUCA world, and one where technology is forcing new behaviours for the workforce, concern about wellbeing has never been higher.

I listened to Dave Coplin recently, he’s a smart guy over at Microsoft and speaks very well about the potential of technology and how it can truly help us live better lives. At the same time he cautions us to not be beholden to technology and be far more purposeful about our use of tech in day to day life. If in the moment tech won’t help you have a better experience, then you should probably seek to just live the experience.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Dave’s talk was his humour. He’s clearly giving many talks and he has found very good ways to display great humour on a topic which is seriously interesting and insightful. Most good speakers do this. They find good humour that you can join in with and help alleviate some of the seriousness.

Laughter, for people, is an oft taken for granted thing. Recently I shared a TED video by Prof Sophie Scott and in the talk she shares that children laugh far more regularly than adults do and adults more than the elderly. It’s an interesting insight and one that bears further thinking. I agree with Sophie that I don’t think we find less things funny as we age, more that our humour becomes refined as we age, and so the things we find funny is dependent on our experiences, what we choose to find humorous and how acceptable we think it is to laugh at various things we experience.

It’s the good feelings we have when we laugh, though. The rush of things like endorphins, the release of stress, the belly aching, the aching jaw, the relaxing of the body. All of that strengthens the body’s natural resilience in being strong. It also really helps with our mental health and in providing those mental reserves to persevere or to find moments of personal balance and maintaining self care. One of the most common myths of people suffering depression is that they don’t find things funny. That’s not true, they can if they’re not in the grips of depression. Being depressed doesn’t tend to be persistent all the time, there are times of raised feelings, and in those times finding humour is an important self care element.

In the workplace, we have good relationships with many people. Some may be friends, some may be people we can have good banter with, and others will be people we just enjoy the company of. When I facilitate workshops and sessions, I always try and build in elements of humour. Not fun necessarily, but certainly ways for people to have fun together or join in some collective humour. I do that because when we experience humour collectively we are better able to have tough conversations. As a group, there is often a need to galvanise and create strengthened feelings. I use humour and good feeling conversations to help create a strong sense of team.

On workshops where I talk about positive psychology, I often use humour to help people understand that there is value in laughter and in smiling. As well as the social benefit of building relationships, there is also the personal benefit of providing that self balance and perspective of humour.

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to talk about that resilience is a topic we don’t talk enough about and we should become far more conversant in. There is a regular need and demand in organisations for people to be productive and achieve things. As well as striving for places that support wellbeing, part of that conversation has to be about how we support the resiliency of our people at work.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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