December can be a stress-triggering month, with the holiday pressures and the proverbial doldrums of the winter months, not to mention Seasonal Affective Disorder living up to its acronym. While the days might be getting shorter, they are feeling longer, and it’s especially important to take extra care of yourself at this time, or both your personal and professional lives could suffer.
Does Mood Matter at Work?
Your mood has an important relationship with your cognitive behavior, and it is necessary to experience pleasure and fun in order to boost productivity. The more fun you have, the more focused you will be. Gretchen Rubin describes the energizing effects of increasing her fun intake in her book, The Happiness Project, when she discovered that the more enjoyment she had in her life, the more motivation she had to work.
Remember that creepy scene in The Shining where Jack wrote nothing on his typewriter “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” Well, there was some scientific truth to his statement, because work without the counterbalance of fun hinders your brain functionality and causes your stress levels to rise.
The Science of Stress
Everyone knows from experience that stress makes doing anything more difficult, but the science behind cortisol, the hormone that stress releases in your body, explains why you can’t work as well when you don’t feel emotionally well. Cortisol noticeably weakens your immune system (ever wonder why you always get sick at the most inopportune moments i.e. when you’re stressed about something important?), but it also impacts your memory. The hippocampus region in your brain that processes and stores memories also happens to contain an abundance of cortisol receptors, making your memories more difficult to locate during times of stress.
Why You Should LOL More
Luckily, there are simple ways that you can decrease cortisol levels in your body, including laughter. It’s actually good for you to take a three-minute break at work to watch the viral video your mom emailed you with the subject line LOL. Need a suggestion? Try cucumbers terrifying cats or one of babies eating lemons (oddly enough, adults tricking cats and babies is a staple of funny viral videos).
Watch the video, laugh, and then share it with your coworkers. Due to what psychologists call emotional contagion, the infectious wave of laughter that flows through the office will help make it a more productive and altogether enjoyable space. Also, the more comfortable office members are with each other, the more opportunity for collaboration, creativity and solid productivity.
Investing time into your happiness and well-being will benefit all aspects of your life. (But good luck telling that to this poor cat).