A group of 15 adults awkwardly stood in a circle waiting for the instructor’s command to start. I nervously looked over at my mom as this was nothing I’d ever done before…especially with my mom.
The whole circle exploded into a rumble of laughter. We started off with a low laugh, then graduated into a high pitch laugh and ended with a series of long laughs. Throughout the process, upbeat music blasted as we rotated partners and distributed high-fives and clapped to the beat of the music. Despite not knowing anyone else in the circle, besides my mom, I felt connected to everyone by the end of the laugh class. I walked away from the class feeling energized, joyful and connected.
But why? How could 20 minutes of laughter with strangers make me feel so welcomed, connected and engaged within a community of strangers? The answer has a lot to do with your brain’s “happy drug.”
Your brain releases a “happy drug” called endorphins, as a coping mechanism for physical or psychological pain and stress. The chemical reaction of endorphins is very closely related to other synthetic opiates like morphine, but without the addictive side effects. Because opiates numb pain, they also give the user an uplifting sense of joy and happiness (queue “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” on repeat).
The instructor of our class was actually using four different techniques to “trick” our brains into releasing endorphins.
3) Playing Music
4) Physical Motion
Our laughing class was like opening a can of quadruple happiness!
There’s one more element at play here that led to me walking away from the class feeling connected to everyone else.
According to research by Dunbar, Gamble and Gowlett in their book Thinking Big*, experiencing any of the four techniques from above with other people has a double effect.
“There seems to be an added punch that comes from doing these activities socially. Doing an endorphin releasing activity with someone else ramps up the effect and somehow makes it much stronger.”
And the net result of engaging in laughter, touch, playing music and/or physical motion with other people? Again the team’s research found…
“Endorphins create friendships and build relationships.”
BAM! Our laughing class wasn’t just a can of internal happiness, it was a can of super charged friendship happiness.
Next time you’re hosting an event for your group, think about how you can incorporate all four of the endorphin releasing activities listed above as a way to up the sense of belonging among your members. And as a bonus, have the activities involve connecting with someone else within the group so a double burst of endorphins are released.
Here’s to growing your dance floor!