Sleep, meditation, exercise - there is a lot of well-meaning advice against stress.

A research team from the University of Basel has now shown that a truism can also help: "Laughter is the best medicine".

In an experiment, the scientists were able to prove that laughter directly reduces stress: over two weeks, the 45 test subjects entered an app developed by the university several times a day about how often and intensely they had laughed - and how stressed they felt.

It turned out that the more often they laughed that day the fewer symptoms of stress they had.

The explanation: Laughter has a buffer effect on the psyche, which makes it easier to deal with stressful experiences.

What's more, they are not even perceived as such.

A hearty laugh also has a physical effect: it strains all muscles and works like a conscious relaxation training.

The additional oxygen is good for the metabolism, hormonal balance and blood pressure.

This article comes from the "WirtschaftsWoche".

These findings should make managers in particular sit up and take notice.

In times of the Corona, the importance of resilience on the one hand and productivity and creativity on the other hand grows.

Less stress means freer thinking, better ideas, greater harmony in teams.

But: Laughing is a tightrope act at work.


The dose makes the poison

People laugh almost everywhere, says psychologist Nico Rose.

"But you have to be careful, there is also contemptuous laughter."

It is okay to laugh about the boss with colleagues or with the boss about his boss.

"The important thing is that it doesn't turn into cynicism too often."

Because, as Eva Ullmann, founder of the German Humor Institute, explains, it will easily become a boomerang.

"Humor can occur in all its forms at work. But if a team gets used to joking only cynically, this has a self-damaging effect in the long run," she warns.

This does not reduce stress.

Basically, psychologists differentiate between three forms of humor: positive, negative and derogatory.

Eva Ullmann calls the latter aggressive, the other ashamed.

And shows how complicated successful jokes are.

Not every malicious joke is bad.

"Some people just have a more loving and some a blacker sense of humor," she says.

"Both are possible among colleagues who have a good relationship with one another. But if the stress is so high that someone feels threatened, then one should be careful and rather show a helping of loving humor."

A verbal slap in the face can also be an opportunity: "If I have to raise my status, I can of course work on a counterattack and prove my true position directly," emphasizes Ullmann.

"If someone says to me that I am not competent, I can say: 'Man, we already have something in common' - and cleverly create status equality."

Aggressive humor against a difficult manager or the poorly managed parent company can create closeness within a team.

However, only well dosed.  

How talented someone is when it comes to joking depends on many factors, especially their upbringing.

If you learn as a child to see things from different perspectives, it is easier as an adult.

In humor training, Ullmann makes astonishing: "Most people learn very quickly about social humor that doesn't hurt, but connects."

This can help executives to keep their team together and not get into the line of fire themselves.

A cheerful saying in the elevator could be: "Do you want to go up too?"

- "No, today I wanted to drive to the side".

For Ullmann a successful example of humor that connects.


Score with self-irony

By their position, bosses are the perfect target for their employees' jokes.

The only thing that helps is a confident escape forwards, says the psychologist Rose.

Managers should have an attitude that shows that laughing is allowed - even about themselves. "If one is not allowed to laugh about the boss, that indicates a problem."

Then there is obviously a climate of fear - and in such an atmosphere there is seldom criticism or fresh ideas.

Rose therefore advocates allowing playfulness: "If a manager manages to see things in a humorous way, plays little puns, pokes at employees and himself in a friendly way, then humor is a form of leadership competence in its own right."

Anyone who thinks that the mood in the office can be saved with a few puns is wrong. Eva Ullmann is certain that "the best humor will not work without professional competence." A manager who is only funny but cannot assert himself becomes a laughing stock in an undesirable sense. And where competence is available, it can be lost again through fake laughter. "An excessive smile always signals something submissive, a low status," explains Ullmann. So whoever just smiles is no longer taken seriously. And if you don't do it, you avoid it.