Karyn Buxman

Catching Up With Karyn

Replacing Your Stress Habit: Jest for Stress

“Shoot! Dang!” cried my husband. (Okay, so those weren’t his exact words. Hey, I want to keep this article rated PG-13!)

His knuckles whitened around the steering wheel, his jaw tensed, his muscles stiffened. “Look at this frakkin’ traffic.” (Note: He actually did use the word “frakkin’.”)

The sight of a traffic jam sent him immediately into a stress response. But I reminded him that we had plenty of time to get to our destination, we had plenty of gas, we had food and drink in the car (and neither of us was in need of a bathroom break!). So rather than fume about traffic I pulled out my phone, and played several episodes of a show that we both find hysterical (Cabin Pressure, a BBC radio sitcom, starring Benedict Cumberbatch). And we relaxed and laughed our way to our destination.

Stress can be habit-forming. We see a stimulus (a traffic jam, a virus alert on our computer, that neighbor who rambles on incessantly) and we respond with irritability, muscle tension, anxiety, loss of focus, and the urge to strangle some jerk who desperately deserves it.

Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl once said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.” So often, when challenges pop up, we fly into an automatic response. But we do have a choice. There are lots of interventions you can initiate in that space between stimulus and response. One of the easiest and most effective choices is humor. Rather than experience a stress habit, create a humor habit.

The trick is having humor easily available so that accessing it is a no-brainer. Here are three quick techniques for the next time you feel stress coming on. Pick one!

  1. Use your smartphone. Depending on the time you have, you can access a funny podcast (10-60 minutes), a funny video (30 seconds to 10 minutes), or funny memes through apps like Tumbler, iFunny, and Pinterest (mere seconds).
  1. Use another person. Ask a colleague, a friend, or a customer to share something funny with you: A funny story, a joke, an embarrassing moment. It doesn’t have to be wet-your-pants funny. You’re just going for a quick reframe of your mindset, from stress to jest.
  1. Use your mind. Have some go-to images that bring a smile to your face just thinking about them:

The look of delight on your toddler’s face when she first met your new puppy. Your husband on the dance floor trying—hilariously—to disco dance like John Travolta. Kramer bumbling his way into Seinfeld’s apartment. Tapping into a quick humorous memory can change your body chemistry—and your day—almost instantly.

And here’s one last tip: You’ll get the maximum benefit from humor when you use it consistently. You can actually rewire your brain—so practice some kind of humor every day!

Stress is always going to be part of our lives, but it doesn’t have to dominate our daily lives. Exchange your stress habit for a humor habit.

Neurohumorist Karyn Buxman is a pioneer in the emerging field of Applied Humor. Her mission: to improve global health, global business and global peace through humor—and heal the humor impaired. Practice humor consistently—sign up for her free ezine, LevityWorks, at http://www.KarynBuxman.com

Posted in: Humor

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I Knew That! (Applied Humor: Knowing versus Doing)

“To know and not to do is not to know.” Chinese Proverb

John glanced quickly over his shoulder as he was driving me to my speaking venue and asked, “So you’re the speaker? What do you speak about?”

Ah! Did he know that this is a professional speaker’s favorite question?! “My body of work for the last 25 years has been the study of humor’s relationship to profitability and health. This afternoon I’m going to share how to use humor as a competitive business edge,” I explained, delighted to share my passion with him.

I could see John’s smiling eyes in the rearview mirror. “Did you know that humor is really, really good for you?” he asked in all sincerity. (Yes, I knew that!) John then went on to tell me a somewhat fuzzy version of Norman Cousins overcoming his life-threatening illness by watching funny movies. It was fun to hear someone else extol on the benefits of humor—and I was encouraged that the word was getting out to the general public that humor has practical benefits.

As I got out of the car and headed toward my meeting, I thought about what John said. Everyone knows humor makes us feel better. Everyone knows it’s enjoyable. Everyone knows that “it’s good for us.” So making humor part of our daily repertoire should simply be common sense, right? But as integrative neuroscientist Dr. Heidi Hanna points out, “Common sense is not common practice.”

Just because we know something is beneficial doesn’t mean we act on that knowledge. I know eating a low-calorie-high-fiber kale salad instead of a piping hot slice of delicious pepperoni and sausage pizza would be better for my waistline—but my belt size can attest to the fact that I don’t act on that knowledge—at least not consistently! My inconsistent actions keep me from experiencing benefits I know to be true.

Just because you know humor can enhance your leadership skills, or give you a competitive edge in sales, or improve your health doesn’t mean that you’re actually experiencing any of these benefits. The truth is that the vast majority of people allow humor to happen by chance, rather than by choice. They stumble across something that makes them laugh in the midst of their busy day and then hurry on—places to go, people to meet. The good news is when you let humor happen by chance, you can still experience some benefits. But when you purposefully implement humor by choicenow you can really leverage the advantages and reap tremendous rewards.

Exercising on an occasional basis is better than no exercise at all, but you really gain the most results when you exercise consistently. It’s similar with humor. When you stumble across humor occasionally, it can elevate your mood, it can decrease your muscle tension, and it may even boost your immune system a bit. But to truly build your resilience, improve your creativity, increase your likability, enhance your communication skills, and reap other additional benefits, it’s best to practice humor consistently—every day.

Let’s say you make a commitment to run a 10K marathon. Would you wait until the day before the race to start working out at the gym? Only if you want to set yourself up for a huge fail! Instead you’d work out on a regular basis—increasing your strength and your stamina. Your commitment to run the race would be futile if you didn’t consistently prepare for it. Business development expert Mark Leblanc once told me, “Consistency trumps commitment every time.” If you want to experience humor as a competitive advantage, then set yourself up to succeed by practicing a bit of humor everyday.

There are many ways to practice humor on a regular basis. Below are three ideas. Pick one and practice it consistently over the next 21 days. (You get extra credit for keeping track of your experiences in a journal.) I promise you that you will begin to see a difference not only in yourself, but also in those around you.

  1. Seek humor from one other person. This can be a customer, a colleague, a friend or a family member. Ask them to share a joke, a funny story, or an embarrassing moment they can now laugh about.
  2. Set a goal to discover one humorous incident in your day. This could be something you read, something you hear, or something that you experience.
  3. Watch one funny video that tickles your funny bone. This might be a gif on your smart phone, a YouTube clip on your computer, or a sitcom on your TV.

Set yourself apart and ahead of the crowd. Give yourself a competitive edge. Practice humor not by chance, but by choice—Humor is power!

Neurohumorist Karyn Buxman is a pioneer in the emerging field of Applied Humor. Her mission: to improve global health, global business and global peace through humor—and heal the humor impaired. Practice humor consistently—sign up for her free ezine, LevityWorks, at KarynBuxman.com

Posted in: Business, Humor

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Grati-texts & Grati-tweets: High Tech AND High Touch

My alarm clock didn’t go off. Someone had already used up all the hot water before I could take my shower. We’d run out of coffee (gasp!). And to top it all off… my “fat pants” were feeling a bit snug—aaaaaauuuuggghhhhhh! This was shaping up to be a miserable morning. I heard my phone chime and my heart skipped a beat. Had I gotten my times mixed—was I late for work? I snatched my phone off the table and saw the text:

“I just wanted you remind you how amazing you are and how grateful I am that you’re in my life.”

My eyes teared up and my heart swelled. My sister, a busy physician three time zones away, had taken 30 seconds out of her busy schedule and had changed the course of my entire day.

Studies show that one way of increasing your happiness set-point is to practice being grateful. Studies vary slightly in their findings, but in a nutshell, writing down three things daily will raise your level of happiness more than writing down a list of items you’re grateful for weekly. Sharing your gratitude or appreciation with another person boosts your happiness level even more.

And get this! In one study, people who focused on gratitude rather than hassles felt more optimistic about their future, felt better about their lives and even did an average of 1.5 more hours of exercise a week. (So I can be happier and shed the fat pants!)

In this fast-paced, high-tech world, it may seem unrealistic to try to squeeze in one more task on your to-do list. Instead of switching from high-tech to high-touch, you can be high-tech AND high-touch! Take 30 seconds to practice “Grati-texting.” Think of someone who has made a real difference in your life, and shoot them a text telling them so.

Being happier has lots of benefits that go beyond just feeling better. You can be healthier, more creative, more productive, and people may find you more attractive! (No joke!)

Here are 7 quick High-Tech AND Hi-Touch ways to express your gratitude:

  1. Whip out your phone and send a Grati-text (a text message that expresses gratitude): Tell someone how much you appreciate them and why.
  2. Express your gratitude in what I call a Grati-tweet (a Tweet that expresses gratitude): 140 characters or less of your appreciation via Twitter.
  3. Use your phone to video your thanks in less than 30 seconds. Then email, text it or post it via your social media.
  4. Find or create a meme that expresses your sentiments and share it online.
  5. Send an e-card to someone that says “I appreciate you.” (There are tons of fun AND free resources. One of my favorites is Just Wink—funny [edgy] and you can personalize with photos, comments and your signature.)
  6. Leave a short voicemail for that special someone letting them know how amazing they are.
  7. Explore Fiverr for a plethora of playful and creative ways to express your gratitude. For $5 someone will create a comic expressing your thanks, sing a song of appreciation, insert your sentiments into an Easter Egg, create an animated whiteboard video of appreciation—stretch your imagination and have fun with this!

Neurohumorist Karyn Buxman knows the key to experiencing real results from strategic humor is consistency. For help in establishing your humor habit, sign up for her free ezine, LevityWorks, at KarynBuxman.com

Posted in: Humor

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Leadership and Humor: Jolly Good!

As I began the interview for my podcast, I looked at his boyish grin and into his playful eyes. “My guest today is Chade-Meng Tan, and he’ll be sharing his insights on leading with levity.”

Meng got a puzzled look on his face and said, “Levity? Oh, I thought we’d be talking about levitation. I guess I’ll have to throw out my notes!”

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “This might be a disaster!”

Chade-Meng Tan then tipped back his head and laughed. Perhaps I should mention that Meng is known as Google’s Jolly Good Fellow. “Leaders need to establish trust—and humor is one way of establishing trust,” he said.

Recently retired from Google (at age 45), Meng is an award-winning engineer, bestselling author, TED talk presenter (check out his TED talk  where he shares his insight: “Compassion Is Fun”), and Co-chair of One Billion Acts of Peace, which has been nominated seven times for the Noble Peace Prize. As a leader, he demonstrates that you can use humor not only to lead in your workplace or organization, but on a global scale.

In your pursuit of better leadership skills you’ve collected an extensive set of tools: Focus. Vision. Values. Strategy. Tactics. Emotional intelligence. Goal-setting. Decision-making. Storytelling. Mentoring. Humor.

Humor??!

I’ve noticed that MBA programs rarely teach humor. And business books don’t extoll the benefits of humor in the corporate—or any organizational—setting. And that’s too bad, because humor is a tool that enhances many of the other leadership tools that you use. Humor enhances communication; bonds teams; improves retention; increases productivity; and improves profitability.

The effectiveness of humor used to be anecdotal. But now it’s a scientifically proven fact that humor has physiological, psychological, and social benefits. Over the past several decades neuroscientists, psychologists, social scientists, and integrative scientists have been ferreting out the secrets of humor.

Research from Wharton, MIT, and London Business School reveal the practical benefits of humor in the workplace. Even “The Harvard Business Review” acknowledges that humor is an important leadership skill.

As a leader, you need a variety of tools that will help you better guide, direct, and inspire others: Your overall temperament and personal style; the manner in which you give guidance, instructions and reprimands; your ability to adapt your techniques to each person and each team you’re addressing (“emotional intelligence,” anyone?!); the tone of your voice; the different styles of communications for one-on-one interactions, for small group meetings, and for large audience situations; your flexibility, your writing style; your confidence; your level of expertise, and—your use of humor.

A good leader knows that when humor happens by chance, positive things can happen. But a great leader knows that humor applied with purpose, intention and mindfulness can change the world.

Neurohumorist Karyn Buxman’s mission in life is to enhance global business, improve global health, and achieve global peace through applied humor. Check out samples of her online leadership program at www.Avanoo.com/KarynBuxman and check out her newest book Lead With Levity.

Posted in: Business, Humor, Leadership

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Nonsense Makes The Heart Grow Fonder: How Humor Can Heat Up Your Love Life

“Treat your love life like it’s the ultimate romantic comedy; laugh a lot and kiss when the credits roll.”

– Gregory Godek, author 1001 Ways To Be Romantic

Stand-up comic Michael Elizondo sat in the doctor’s exam room waiting to be seen. When the doctor walked in, he was taken aback by her beauty. “Come here often?” he quipped. She laughed. And as they saying goes… they lived happily ever after.

When it comes to what we’re looking for in a mate, sense of humor ranks as a must-have by both sexes. That being said, men and women are looking for slightly different outcomes when it comes to sense of humor in a soul mate.

Women are looking for someone who will make them laugh. Men, on the other hand, are looking for someone to laugh at their jokes. According to numerous studies, guys who can make a woman laugh are seen as more attractive. And guys feel affirmed and appreciated by a woman who laughs at his jokes.

Humor and romance aren’t just for Valentine’s Day. The benefits are so delicious you’ll want to practice both of them all year long.

Humor strengthens relationships. Being able to laugh with your partner will help you better weather the bad times and enjoy the good times even more. Over time, your “inside humor” (humor that others simply wouldn’t understand but leaves the two of  you in stitches) will accumulate and help provide a bandwidth of resilience that will make your relationship even stronger and healthier.

Here are 10 tips on how to add humor to spice up your relationship:

  1. Watch something funny on TV that makes both of you laugh. (Sitcoms, movies, Youtube videos)
  2. Personalize a cartoon with his or her name and tape it to the bathroom mirror.
  3. Fix your partner something yummy—and make it look funny. (Despite what your mother may have told you, it’s okay to play with your food!)
  4. Recall memories that you’ve shared that had you doubled over in a fit of giggles.
  5. Make a date night at a comedy club.
  6. Write a funny message on the shower door with washable crayons.
  7. Try your hand at funny poetry. (Spiderman’s red. Aquaman’s blue. If I had a superpower—it would be loving you!)
  8. Read funny passages to one another from your favorite humorous authors—perhaps David Sedaris, Nora Ephron, Mark Twain, or Jenny Lawson.
  9. Share an embarrassing moment that you now find funny. (Hint: Showing vulnerability makes many a partner swoon.)
  10. Videotape a whimsical declaration of your love and send it via Snapchat or text.

Humor and intimacy make for great chemistry. As a matter of fact, in a recent study referenced in Psychology Today, women who had partners with a great sense of humor reported more and stronger orgasms. (You could look it up.)

Neurohumorist Karyn Buxman knows Humor Is Power. She helps leaders strengthen relationships, avoid landmines, and harness humor for a competitive business edge—even if they’re not funny! Questions? Comments? Jokes to share? Visit http://www.KarynBuxman.com

Posted in: Humor, Romance

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Humor May Be Hazardous To Your Illness

Many of you may be too young to recall the story of Norman Cousins. The 60-second version: When diagnosed with a degenerative disease (ankylosing spondylitis) he checked himself into a hotel across the street from his hospital, and with the support of his doctor and his friend, Allen Funt (Host of Candid Camera-are you too young to remember that, too???), he basically laughed himself into remission. He wrote a book about his experience, Anatomy of an Illness, and a new era-psychoneuroimmunology began.

Scientists began to study the healing power of humor and validate that there really is truth to the saying, “Laughter’s the best medicine.” Benefits to your cardiovascular system, your respiratory system, your musculoskeletal system, your immune system, your endocrine system, your nervous system, your digestive system-the evidence grows leaps and bounds daily! But here’s my suggestion: Don’t wait for further proof. Do a little self-experimentation. Incorporate humor into your daily routine. Make humor a habit and enjoy a healthier you!

Create a humor habit

Norman Cousins created a humor habit by watching reels and reels of Candid Camera (that was before VCRs and TiVo). Below are a few techniques to help create your humor habit:

Jokes and Anecdotes

I think everyone ought to learn at least one joke. Something short, easy to remember, and non-offensive. But better than jokes are stories. What’s most personal is most universal. Those who know and love me will understand why I so enjoyed the story sent to me by my angel, Jim Brown. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I did!

Several days ago as I left a meeting at a hotel, I desperately gave myself a personal TSA pat down. I was looking for my car keys. They weren’t in my pockets. A quick search in the meeting room revealed nothing. Suddenly I realized I must have left them in the car. Frantically, I headed for the parking lot.

My wife had scolded me many times for leaving the keys in the ignition. My theory is that the ignition is the best place not to lose them. Her theory is that the car will be stolen. As I burst through the door, I came to a terrifying conclusion. Her theory was right! The parking lot was empty. I immediately called the police. I gave them my location, and confessed that I’d left my keys in the car and that it’d been stolen.

Then I made the most difficult call of all. “Sweetheart,” I stammered. (I always call her sweetheart, especially in times like these.) “I left my keys in the car and it’s been stolen.” There was a period of silence. I thought the call had been dropped, but then I heard her voice. “Are you kiddin’ me?!” she barked, “I dropped you off at the hotel!!!”

Now it was my time to be silent. Embarrassed, I said, “Well, please come and get me.”

She retorted, “I will… as soon as I convince this cop I didn’t steal your car!”

Manipulate your environment

Increase your likelihood of experiencing humor by keeping things that amuse you within arm’s reach. Books, audio clips, games or pictures-what brings you a smile, or better yet a chuckle?

Create Your Humor Habit:

Jigsaw Puzzles-for your computer!

Putting together a puzzle can be relaxing, fun, and good for your brain! But perhaps you’re a bit short on time or table space. Checkout Mindjolt.com for puzzles and lots of fun games. Dr. O. Carl Simonton of the Simonton Cancer Institute determined that play is crucial to our well-being, and that we’d all be healthier if we slated 15-30 minutes of play into our day. Schedule some time for puzzles in your repertoire of recreation!

Neurohumorist and professional speaker Karyn Buxman’s mission in life is to enhance global business, improve global health, and achieve global peace through strategic humor. Her upcoming book is “Lead with Levity.” Learn more at http://www.KarynBuxman.com

Posted in: Healthcare, Humor

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Humor vs. Terrorism

Three-and-a-half million people rallied throughout France on January 12, 2015 to show unity and to show support for freedom of expression in the face of fanaticism and terrorism. What triggered the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo office? Humor.

Humor?? Yes. Political satire. So are we now going to characterize humor as a weapon? Something to wield and fear? C’mon, we’re more mature than that. (Aren’t we??) (Perhaps we had better warn the editors of Mad Magazine to tread lightly. “What, me worry?”)

Humor, like any form of expression, has a huge range—from the silliness of Teletubbies for toddlers to the “dead seriousness” of sharp political satire. All forms of communication can be used for comfort and connection, and also for influence and intimidation. Yes, humor can be used as a weapon. But it’s not a weapon of mass destruction! It’s a weapon of mass embarrassment.

Satire is one of the more edgy—and often purposely incendiary—types of humor. Satire can certainly sting—just ask the Pope or Donald Trump or any political leader—but mature people can handle it. Vocal and visual and written discourse is always better than violence.

Free societies are characterized by tolerance. As Robert F. Kennedy said, “What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant.” Here in America we have a long history of political commentators who used humor, from Benjamin Franklin to Lenny Bruce to George Carlin to Stephen Colbert. They all pushed buttons and they pushed boundaries. Not everybody agreed with them. But nobody shot them! (No matter what you feel about Democrats vs. Republicans, at least they don’t shoot each other.)

Protecting free expression is fundamental. So is understanding what happened in Paris and why. Part of this conversation must center on the power, as well as the complexity, of humor. Humor can be healing. Humor can be hurtful. Humor can be entertainment. Humor can be a tool when used intentionally. And humor can be a weapon when used strategically. As you can see, humor is power.

It appears that terrorists are more frightened of cartoons than of cruise missiles. Perhaps the free world should change its tactics. I hear that Jay Leno’s writers might be looking for a little freelance work.

Neurohumorist Karyn Buxman’s mission in life is to enhance global business, improve global health, and achieve global peace through strategic humor. Her upcoming book is “Lead with Levity.” www.KarynBuxman.com.

Posted in: Humor

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