What is levity, and why it matters more than ever

In The Levity Effect: Why it Pays to Lighten Up, Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher argue that levity is a must-have tool for your workplace toolbox.

Levity, they argue, helps people work better. For example, it helps people pay attention, eases tension, and enhances a feeling of connection. These factors certainly can contribute to a happier and healthier workplace, and a more engaged one at that.

Increasing levity, and in turn, engagement can have a large effect on profits. We know the cost of disengaged workers:  the Gallup organization has found that disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy roughly $416 billion last year, primarily through lost productivity.

It seems the workplace could benefit from levity, or happiness training.  Now, the question is how. Is there such a thing as levity training?

We can re-train our brain to be more positive, can we train ourselves to be more light-hearted in the stress of day-to-day work, pressures, deadlines, and a difficult economy?

It may not be as hard as it seems. I’ll offer a few tips below.

We know that laughter and humor, for example, release dopamine (and decreases the stress hormone, cortisol) in the brain which regulates mood, motivation, attention and learning. Findings from research at Stanford indicate that humor can have positive effects not only on mood, but also on motivation and learning.

But it’s not just about the laughs. Just like we often dispel myths about Improv training, it’s important to clarify what levity means. The authors stress levity is really a sense of lightness. Just like formal Improv training, it’s less about being funny and more about being able to have fun, and see the humorous side of everyday situations — especially difficult ones.

Improv and levity training can look like this:

  1. Creating a more positive mindset
  2. Building connections and trust amongst groups and teams
  3. Increasing your capacity for gratitude and the gifts of others
  4. Being more present – to appreciate and recognize everything and everyone around you
  5. Increasing confidence to make building connections with others more natural
  6. Turning mistakes into gifts
  7. Adding more play into day-to-day work

We are in charge of our own happiness and how we measure it, but the environment in which we work can do more to increase workplace levity and contribute to more positive experiences at the office. It is worth taking the time.

Gostick and Christopher include a quiz about workplace levity. Take this quiz and see how your workplace measures up. If it falls short, what small changes can you initiate?

New employees are made to feel welcome.
Meetings are positive and light.
We have fun activities at least once a month.
It’s common to hear people laughing around here.
I can be myself at work.
We have a lot of celebrations for special events.
When brainstorming, we like to have fun.
My boss is usually optimistic and smiling.
Customers would call us fun to do business with.
I have a friend at work who makes me laugh.
We have a good time together.

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