“Happy people are healthier, more productive and more motivated,” says Laughology founder Stephanie Davies. Her training and consulting organisation is built upon this idea; that work and training should be fun, and then people will be not only happy, but more productive.
Companies and organisations such as banks, schools and Liverpool One are embracing this ethos, and Stephanie has an impressive list of satisfied customers. We asked Stephanie to tell us more about the organisation, its methods and history.
From stand-up to psychology
Stephanie Davies studied community arts at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts before embarking on a career as an award-winning stand-up comedian (Liverpool Echo best newcomer 2003, Northwest Comedian of the Year runner up 2004, Funny Women competition second place 2005). She has worked on projects and events including creating the country's first happy-centred school, developing an initiative to encourage resilience and community spirit in a divided area of Bradford and running a rehabilitation programme for service users in a secure mental health unit.
It was whilst working as a stand-up that Stephanie recognised that laughter and humour could not only help her survive in male-dominated working men’s clubs in the North, but could also be utilised as a tool to empower individuals and organisations. “I think that everyone should try stand-up comedy,” she says, “You learn how to walk into a room and quickly work out what’s going on.”
Her observations of audience reactions to comedy and the psychological processes which underpin humour and laughter developed into a real interest in how the brain works, and led her to embark on a Master’s Degree in psychology, where she researched the neurological processes which drive humour and happiness in the human brain. She then wrote the critically acclaimed book, Laughology: Improve Your Life With The Science Of Laughter, which demonstrates how people can take control of their emotions and use humour as a coping mechanism.
Work with schools
It was while taking stand-up into schools that Stephanie began developing what has become the Laughology methodology. “I left school with no qualifications, I really struggled at school as I am dyslexic, but I found a by-product of stand-up was that it made me engage with news and politics in a way that I wished I had done at school. I did stand-up workshops in schools to engage young people with reading and writing and noticed that they were learning to view the world in a different way through it.” Stephanie was then invited into the world of business to inject a breath of fresh air into stuffy corporate training; “I thought, why are we trying to teach people in this really didactic, dull and boring, sit-down type of way?”
The Laughology revolution
“Classically in the corporate world you need to be serious to be taken seriously. But I think there’s a growing trend for training to be more fun.”
Laughter and humour improve outcomes. People who are happy tend to be healthier, more resilient and more productive than people who are not. And laughter and humour improve communication, engagement, learning, mental health and wellbeing. Laughology courses provide unique, fun, memorable training experiences that people love and encourages an organisation to put happiness at its centre, as part of a virtuous circle of happiness.
But Laughology training is not about having fun for the sake of fun; according to Stephanie, “that doesn’t work, there’s got to be a real learning behind it.”
Happy people are healthier, more productive and more motivated
The science bit
“Neuroscience is exciting. The more we know about our brains and skill ourselves up in understanding how that works, the better we are as people to be able to go forwards and flourish in life.”
Laughology training is underpinned by the neuroscience of humour, laughter and happiness and delivered in a fun, dynamic, interactive laugh-out-loud style that is an antidote to the ‘grey-suited lecturing status quo’.
Humour and laughter trigger processes in the brain that make learning more effective. They also trigger the release of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which heighten emotional response and maximise neurological function. So, when programmes, workshops and keynotes are presented in a fun way with interaction and laughs, delegates are more likely to remember the key messages and content.
Laughology, of course, understand that happiness is a much more nuanced emotional state than just being content and pleased with life. ‘Realistic happiness’ as Laughology call it – is a complex mix of mindsets and emotional states that combine to create positivity, resilience and robust mental health. The Laughology Happiness Matrix has been developed from years of research and experience, and is part of Stephanie’s long-term goal of helping workplaces, their people and families to be happier. Realistic happiness is made of five main drivers of confidence, coping skills, positive relationships, support and personal development. Within each of these there are other factors, such as a sense of purpose.
“I have a passion that every organisation has an opportunity to help people develop –and development helps them to be happy, but also organisations have a fundamental obligation to make sure that their people are well and happy, and that their families are well and happy.”