“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning to do afterward”
I’m not going to lie to you my friends… social work can be hard at times.
In fact, social work can be hard most of the time.
For some people, it can even feel like social work is hard all of the time.
Asked to work with some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, having to address abuse and neglect on a daily basis, our work is far from cheerful. Add to this the fact that we have poor support to do our jobs, are more likely to experience mental health problems and rarely have settled teams because of high turnover…
Yeah, it’s not exactly looking all rosy, is it?
But, despite all that we must endure, it is essential that we try to have a sense of humour in social work and here’s why:
It won’t surprise you to find out that our brains are designed to respond positively to laughter and this generates chemicals that make us feel better about ourselves. Studies into this area found that laughing at work releases hormones that improves our mood immediately and helps fight off depression in the long-term. In a profession where long-term absence because of low mood is common, finding humour in the workplace can help with your self-care.
There are some pretty nasty side-effects to experiencing stress at work that can seriously damage your health. Having a sense of humour in social work can help to alleviate some of these symptoms because the physical act of laughing has health benefits. Laughing causes increased blood flow and oxygenation that stimulates your heart and lungs. This stimulation releases relaxing endorphins that help you feel more relaxed in the workplace.
We all know that we tend to make friends with people who have a similar sense of humour to us and there’s nothing like that moment you bond with a colleague over laughing at the same thing. Going beyond this common sense understanding, studies have discovered that ‘mirror neurons’ in our brains respond positively to people who share our world views; leaving us with a closer bond and shared feelings of empathy. So, laughter really is contagious!
Yes, it’s true, laughter really is the best medicine… well, almost. Research has shown that people who laugh are less bothered by pain they experience. Pain doesn’t really reduce, but the perception of severity drops when we’re laughing as we are distracted by humour.
I’ve previously written about how experiencing stress in the workplace suppresses out immune systems and is the reason why we often get ill as soon as we take a holiday. Well the good news with having a sense of humour in Social Work is that laughter helps to increase specialist white blood cells that boost our immunity. So, carry on trying to find laughter in all you do because it’s keeping you fit.
Those of us who are out there doing this job every day, or at University training to be Social Workers, know that having physical and emotional resilience is one of the keys to successful Social Work career. The good news for all you jokers out there is that being a positive person improves resilience and makes you more likely to be successful in life. With positivity linked to the ability to find humour by always looking on the bright side of life, laughing with your colleagues helps keep you going.
For a light-hearted and humorous take on social work, listen to the weekly Out of Hours Podcast by signing up to the SWT Patreon