We all know that laughter is a great way to ease anxiety in tough times, smooth tense moments, and generally make your day a little brighter. But laughter is more than just a mood boost. Studies show laughter helps us learn faster, be more creative, and even perform better at work.
And according to a fascinating recent post on The Conversation by Janet Gibson, a psychologist who specializes in the study of humor, laughter is also a powerful (and delightfully pleasant) tool to boost your EQ.
It's not a Netflix comedy binge, it's an EQ workout.
The post runs down the long list of scientifically validated benefits of humor, from training babies' muscles and brains to acting like a non-pharmacological antidepressant, as well as the science that shows an appreciation of humor (particularly sarcasm) is a sign of intelligence. But she also delves into how adding more laughter to your life can be an effective way to boost your EQ.
"Many cognitive and social skills work together to help you monitor when and why laughter occurs during conversations," Gibson writes. "Laughter creates bonds and increases intimacy with others." Humor, in other words, requires sensitivity to others' perspectives and emotions and helps cement our relationships.
That's probably not news to those who are lower on the EQ scale and who struggle with the social subtleties of humor. What might be more surprising is Gibson's suggestion that you can actually train your emotional intelligence by deliberately adding more humor to your life.
"By practicing a little laughter each day, you can enhance social skills that may not come naturally to you. When you laugh in response to humor, you share your feelings with others and learn from risks that your response will be accepted/shared/enjoyed by others and not be rejected/ignored/disliked," Gibson explains.
A laughter-filled life isn't just a sigh of a high EQ, in other words, it's also a way to proactively increase your own emotional skills and personal well-being. "A growing number of therapists advocate using humor and laughter to help clients build trust and improve work environments; a review of five different studies found that measures of well-being did increase after laughter interventions," Gibson reports.
How do you actually work out your laughter muscles? Nothing fancy or difficult is required. "Interventions take the form of daily humor activities - surrounding yourself with funny people, watching a comedy that makes you laugh or writing down three funny things that happened today," Gibson instructs.
Which sounds a little too good to be true - chuckling at funny YouTube videos or watching comedy specials sounds too pleasant to be good for you, but science suggests that seeking out opportunities to laugh really does help build your emotional intelligence.
So next time you're feeling weary from this crazy year and looking for a dead easy way to pursue some self-improvement, consider comedy. Not only does it feel good in these dark times, a good laugh actually helps your brain improve its ability to empathize with others and parse complex social situations.
That means you can honestly tell yourself It's not a sitcom Netflix binge, it's an EQ workout. Thanks, science.