For Sarah Routman, life is a laughing matter.

She has company. Dozens of surveys suggest that humor is a factor in success: One found that nine in 10 executives believe a sense of humor is important for advancement. Another noted that the most desirable leadership traits are a strong work ethic and a sense of humor.

And beyond work, life in general often could use a few guffaws. So … laugh much lately?

Routman, of Hopkins, waves the banner of Irving Berlin, who said that “life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” Too often, she said, we react in ways that only heighten our stress, which then distracts us from seeing solutions.

She founded the consulting firm seriousgiggles.com to help people discover the power of humor.

“People hire me for stress management,” said Routman, who’s also an adjunct instructor in leadership at the University of Minnesota. “If nothing else, laugh heartily, at least once, every day. You’ll be absent less, more productive.

“And really, it takes so little energy to be nice.”

Laughing through tears

Routman came to laughter through sadness: the deaths of a beloved grandmother and a youngster born with an immune deficiency; there also was a divorce.

When a college friend of her daughter got certified as an instructor in laughter yoga, Routman tried it out, “and I was on fire, it was so fantastic.”

“We don’t get to choose to do many things, but we always get to choose how we show up,” she said. “There were too many times in my life when people said, ‘You’re not fun.’ ”

Laughter yoga has been around for about 20 years and is growing in popularity. (Google “laughter yoga” and Minnesota for options.) It’s based on the idea that our bodies have the same physiological and psychological responses to directed laughter as to spontaneous chuckles.

Given that laughter yoga is a group activity, the play-acted laughter almost inevitably becomes the real thing.

“The idea is in choosing to laugh for no reason at all — putting laughter in your life intentionally and not waiting for life to present something funny,” she said.

Routman, who was executive director of two nonprofits, demonstrates the serious nature of giggling at workshops, retreats, health conferences and humor festivals.

Each Monday at 9 a.m. she hosts a free laughter call, leading callers through a quick series of exercises that get them moving and laughing and, ideally, more energized for the day ahead. A recent call had people on the line from Georgia, New Mexico and even Israel.

(Call 1-218-339-2460, then punch in Laugh#, or 52844#.)

“I care about people finding their potential,” Routman said.

And, even though she’s laughing, she’s not kidding.

 

@Odewrites