The Power Of Humor – Mastermind: How Successful People Manage Their Mental Health
Finding little ways to promote one’s well-being can prove to be extremely beneficial in the long run. One seemingly small way to achieve this is through humor.
When asked about effective leadership, Steve Worth, now an international management consultant, immediately launched into a story from his days attending a boarding school in the 1960s. He recounted in detail one time at school when there was an enormous amount of stress among his fellow students, as the majority of assignments seemed to be due at the same time. Steve points out that these were very intelligent students, but they saw themselves going down in flames, so to speak, because of all these simultaneous impending deadlines they had to meet.
The headmaster called a general assembly, and the students were all wondering, What is he going to say? Is he going to chew us out?
Unsure of what was to follow, all the boarding school students gathered, only to find their teachers dressed up in comical costumes, making fools of themselves up on the stage.
“Laughter was just uproarious and everyone was just . . . we had to release that energy somehow and see the light side of things. And he knew how to do that,” Steve recalled.
The headmaster himself was known as quite an extraordinary person; he graduated with an Ivy League degree and served as a bomber pilot in Europe during the second World War. His plane was shot down over Holland, and he was taken prisoner by the Nazis, but he orchestrated an escape and was later rescued by the Dutch underground. Overall, he was an extremely intelligent guy with an eventful past — a natural leader, as evidenced by the vast respect his students had for him.
“You could see he was a man who was very much in control. But he was the one who orchestrated this foolishness just to let it all out, let the tensions out. So I think there are tricks like that leaders use. . . . It requires them to know where their team is, and you need to help them along in certain times.”
Jeff Iannaccone similarly noted the influence and sway of humor in his leadership technique, even in settings that are typically perceived as utterly serious — in his case, the military.
“I think taking a Patton-esque approach to it, even in the military, is completely wrong,” Jeff emphasized. “I practice servant leadership — to lead by example, as opposed to taking other routes to get there. And I like to think of myself as an easygoing person, and that has always served me well. I feel like it brings about the better in people because you’re able to take pressure situations or stressful situations and kind of dilute that for your team members, and they are able to accomplish a heck of a lot more by doing that.”
Humor isn’t solely useful in eliciting a chuckle; it actually has significant power. Studies show that feigning a smile can eventually create that reality. Babies start smiling around eight weeks old through the process of imitation and positive reinforcement. Children have certain inherent biological tendencies they bring into the world. If a baby is smiling, they will evoke smiles from those around them, which over time can help create a more socially responsive person.
On top of the importance and sway of humor, Jeff stated that the first thing that he does when he is trying to motivate a team is ensure he is being true to himself.
“I could talk about leadership for hours,” Jeff confessed. “I love the topic, but it is so complex. I really do feel that way. I need to be true to myself and know my own personality and know how I am comfortable interacting with people, and I am not going to fake it.”
One predominant thread in Jeff’s encounters is the impact of being genuine. It may sound simplistic, but being genuine when he stands up as a leader and tries to motivate everyone to accomplish the given mission at hand has gotten him far.
“I am very honest with myself and I don’t try to put on some disguise. I think leadership and mental health play together from that standpoint,” Jeff pointed out.
While resources such as therapy and counseling are invaluable in promoting wellness, other informal mechanisms, such as humor and honesty, can be quite impactful as well. Humor can go a long way to nurture health and relieve stress, as demonstrated by Steve’s impeccable memory of his high school headmaster’s command of leadership and the value Jeff places on being genuine and true to himself. There is something very human and universal about humor in particular, and it has a way of uniting people, both inside and outside the workplace. The role of humor in the workplace is especially pertinent when it comes to being mindful of how to effectively manage a team and working with others in somewhat stressful scenarios.
In a sense, my hitting an all-time low was what it took for me to examine my lifestyle in a new light and reevaluate my choices. Not having enough time for myself and feeling like I constantly had to be running around busy all the time played a significant role in my successive breakdown. It took me hitting a wall and crashing and burning before I realized how important this time is for both my own mental and physical health.
Up until recently, I struggled to give myself breaks because I always felt like there weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, and I felt guilty if I took a moment to rest or stop to catch my breath. I had a hard time fully relaxing because I always felt like I had some homework or essays or chores or some other responsibilities hanging over my shoulder. But I quickly learned that kind of mindset is a sure way to send you into a tailspin.
I have begun to carve out more “me” time into my hectic schedule, whether that’s binge-watching The Office in my bed, going to the library with friends rather than alone, or as simple as treating myself to a midday nap when I’ve had a tough day. Finding time for yourself isn’t always easy, and sometimes it involves sacrifices or having to step back and re-prioritize things to fit it in. Whatever your method is, this is super important to do — I can’t stress that enough.
If you find yourself experiencing something like I did or worse — a panic attack, anxiety, depression, feeling overwhelmed, suicidal thoughts — please tell someone. Tell anyone: a friend, family member, teacher, or counselor, and make that first step toward getting help. You are absolutely not alone and don’t have to go through it on your own. You will find a lot of support out there. I can promise you that.
As evidenced by all these raw and honest stories, there are a variety of techniques that work to improve mental wellness for different people. My aim was to shed light on some of the seemingly simple, nontraditional, informal mechanisms that promote mental wellness and overall well-being. I aspire to play a role in raising awareness of mental health issues and combating the associated stigma. I hope you will join me in the effort and the ongoing journey for achieving mental well-being.
I have enjoyed writing this blog series about my book, Mastermind. If you’d like to get a copy, you can find it on Amazon — here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1641372141/ref. I’d love to connect! You can reach me here via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on social: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandra-friedman-b94496121/