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Laugh? I could have died

Using laughter to diffuse stresses associated with everyday work can help create a more pleasant office environment and prevent physical complaints such as bad circulation and stomach ulcers, according to psychologist Dr Mike Lowis.

Lowis, from University College Northampton, arranges corporate 'humour workshops' which look at common problems created by hectic working lifestyles. His course, usually formed of a number of weekly sessions, uses group role plays to teach the importance of stepping back from problems, looking at them more creatively and using laughter to diffuse stressful situations.

'The pace of life both in business and domestic situations has increased beyond all proportion over the last 10 years. Greater workloads and tighter deadlines can lead to people suffering increased mental stress,' says Lowis.

One thing to realise is that a problem can have a ripple effect, spreading well beyond the original source. If one person argues with a colleague the bad feeling can embrace others, creating a hostile environment.

To appreciate humour, the creative part of your mind has to be employed, says Lowis. People who go on the course should cope better with work environments and learn to deal with problems more creatively in future.

'It is best not to take anything too seriously and be upset by it,' Lowis says. 'Stress can affect everybody in a company and increase the chance of illness.'

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