The power of Smile and Laughter (Yoga)
In Yellow Factor (formerly Yellow Goldfish) – which covers nine ways increasing H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S. in business can drive G.R.O.W.T.H., productivity, and prosperity for customers, employees, and society overall – Stan Phelps and I make quite few references to the power of Laughter:
- We dedicate an entire chapter to SMILE (the final S in Happiness) because when we smile we activate hundreds of facial muscles and we send a message to our body to rebalance, to cultivate health and vitality, we feel inner joy and connection to others
- When we smile and laugh, especially with other people, we trigger all of the chemicals of happiness: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, Endorphin, GABA.
- We talk about Laughter in our chapters about Health and Play: laughter allows us to reduce stress and anxiety, and allows our body to rest and recharge by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (which slows the heart and lowers the blood pressure, allowing recovery after a stressful event).
- We propose various ways in which companies can stimulate laughter for their customers and employees, through funny announcements like Southwest, or Comedy Training like Peppercom.
My journey to discover Laughter Yoga
At the time of writing Yellow Goldfish, I thought that joke, comedy, or some other type of stimulus was needed in order to laugh. I first heard about Laughter Yoga in 2019, while I was looking for a laughter-provoking exercise to do during a Design Thinking Conference workshop. I found a great exercise on YouTube and I kept proposing it in my future sessions or workshops, but without further investigating what Laughter Yoga actually was (as I was actually set back by the word Yoga). It was only in 2021 that thanks to Lara Lucaccioni I learned that it is called Laughter “Yoga” simply because it combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing, but there are no physical yoga positions involved (even though I also practiced and liked Yoga Flow, I had imagined that I wouldn’t like a laughing version of Yoga). As I deepened my knowledge of Laughter Yoga with Dr. Kataria & Lara Lucaccioni, I started practicing it daily as of 13 April 2021. I started with the Inner Spirit of Laughter course directly with Dr. Kataria in April 2021, then became Laughter Yoga Leader in May 2021, and Laughter Yoga Teacher in August 2021.
What is Laughter Yoga?
Laughter Yoga is a wonderful practice & discipline based on the revolutionary idea – simple and profound – that anyone can laugh unconditionally, without relying on humor, jokes or comedy. Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group: with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter. It is based on the scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits, which are many.
We have dedicated the first Happiness Shot of our Happiness Contribution™ Show to the Benefits of Laughter in the business world.
Watch the webcast on YouTube
Listen to podcast on your favorite platform
Why: The Benefits of Laughter Yoga
Laughter yoga gives the maximum health benefits because it is:
- Sustained (10-15 minutes)
- Deep (diaphragm)
The benefits are so many that one can wonder why we don’t all just laugh daily like we shower and brush our teeth. Here are just a few benefits of laughter yoga in 5 main areas :
- Mood: better mood and less anxiety & depression, because of the production of serotonin & endorphins, and better oxygenation
✅ Increased oxygenation: stronger respiratory system and increased oxygenation, hence more concentration, attention and better performances
✅ Health Improvements: reduced stress & related illnesses, because Laughter activates our parasympathetic system & reduces cortisol production
✅ better digestion, because the movement of abdominal muscles & diaphragm provides a gentle massage to all digestive organs, functioning as internal jogging
✅ healthy heart and better circulatory system
✅ stronger immune system and less sickness because of the increased number of natural killer (NK) cells and interferon-gamma (IFN)
- Performance and work: Increased creativity and innovation because of the playfulness and right brain activation; increased energy because of oxygenation
- Social connectors: people who laugh together bond together and work better together; the laughter clubs become real supportive networks for their members
- Copying mechanism in challenging times: A quote from the founder Dr. Kataria which I love and has become the motto of the movement is “I don’t laugh because I’m happy, I’m happy because I laugh”
These benefits make laughter yoga a remarkable fun and inexpensive solution for many current business problems:
- Stress management
- Burn-out prevention
- Reduce sickness, absenteeism, and turnover
- Increase productivity, creativity, innovation, and team bonding
- Creating a happy, healthy, and energetic workforce
How it started and continues
Laughter Yoga is the brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, an Indian physician from Mumbai who started the first laughter club in a park on 13th March 1995, with just 5 people.
While the saying “laughter is the best medicine” is believed to have originated from Proverbs 17.22 of the King James Bible, and already in the 1300s, Henri de Mondeville, a professor of surgery, propagated post-operative therapy with humor, the basis of Laughter Yoga is to be found in the 1979 book “Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing” by Norman Cousins.
Cousins was a journalist and a professor, who did research on the biochemistry of human emotions, which he long believed were the key to human beings’ success in fighting illness. When in 1964 he suffered from a very painful ankylosing spondylitis, and was told that he had one chance in 500 of recovering, he developed his own “treatment,” based on mood elevation through laughter. According to Cousins, ten minutes of laughter resulted in two hours of pain-free sleep.
Many studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of laughter, thanks to the release of endorphins and other happiness chemicals, and increased oxygenation.
Dr Madan Kataria, an Indian physician from Mumbai, was researching how to support better some of his patients when he stumbled upon the research from Cousins and, on 13th March 1995, he had the intuition to start the first laughter club in a park, with just 5 people. It started with participants telling each other funny jokes and when they run out of jokes, it continued as an intentional practice and discipline based on the simple yet revolutionary idea that anyone can laugh for no reason, without relying on humor, jokes, or comedy. Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group and with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter.
There are five secrets (or principles) for unconditional laughter:
- It doesn’t need humor. It does need us to ignore any inhibition or pre-conception coming from our past or upbringing.
- Motion creates emotion: if we bring our body to laugh, the mind will follow. Just like Amy Cuddy researches on postures shows, if we change our actions and posture, our thoughts and emotions will change too
- We laugh as a choice: we can choose to laugh also if we don’t feel happy. We can “fake it” till we become the laughter, because our mind cannot distinguish between a real and fake laughter (as long as intentional)
- Nurture the inner child with playfulness
- Just train the mind and body to laugh till it comes naturally to laugh: “know laughter, do laughter, be laughter”
Laughter Yoga sessions and trainings
A laughter session can be done virtually or in person, and can be as brief as 10-15 minutes (the minimum amount of time we need for our body to produce the joy cocktail), or range between 30 minutes and 1 hour. Till 2015, a laughter yoga session included only laughter; since 2015, it includes also the other three elements of joy: play, singing, and dancing.
Every LY facilitator develops his/her own style, though the most common format used during a 50-60 minute Laughter Club session is the following:
- Warm up movements and breathing: 10 minutes
- Games & laughter exercises: 10-20 minutes
- Laughter meditation: 10-15 minutes
- Grounding closing meditation: humming, breathing or yoga nidra.
Today, it has become a worldwide phenomenon and there are thousands of social laughter clubs in more than 101 countries, an international organization (Laughter Yoga International), and an Academy with complete training programs and certifications. There are 4 levels of training:
- Basic Learning Course is designed to learn LY for yourself (we cover this in our Stress Buster Joy Blaster Program)
- Certified LY Leader is designed to become a LY facilitator (we now offer this course via Zoom!)
- Certified LY Teacher Training you will learn how to train LY Leaders
- Certified LY Master Trainer you will learn how to train LY Teachers
Rosaria, a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher, has followed the first three levels and regularly attends training updates with Dr. Kataria. She can provide both Basic Learning Course and the official Laughter Yoga Leader Training to help you become a LY facilitator. And she has created her own “Stress Buster and Joy Blaster” combining her learnings from Laughter Yoga, Heart Coherence, Qigong, and the Happiness Studies Academy. All these courses are available on-demand as in-company programs, while the “Stress Buster and Joy Blaster” is also available as an open program. And we also regularly offer the FREE LaugherZoom. Find out more below.
World Laughter Day
World Laughter Day was created in 1998 by Dr. Kataria, founder of the worldwide Laughter Yoga movement. The day is now celebrated on the first Sunday of May worldwide, and its celebration is a positive manifestation of world peace and is intended to build up a global consciousness of brotherhood and friendship through laughter. On this day the laughter club members get together to laugh together to send out positive vibrations of unconditional love, laughter, kindness, and compassion, in alignment with the Mission of Laughter Yoga International which is “Health, happiness, and world peace through laughter”
How can we bring World Peace through Laughter?
The formula is very simple: “When you laugh, you change, and when you change the world changes around you.” Inner change is the key to seeing the change in the outer world. The war in the external world is the reflection of the inner war going on in the minds of people. Unconditional laughter has the power to change the inner chemistry and make us feel good inside. When you feel good inside, it changes your perception of the outer world. Laughter is the easiest and most cost-effective solution for physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being. Learn more about World Laughter Day.
How can I help you bring more Laughter into your life and work?
Do you want to get a glimpse of what it means to laugh unconditionally or learn more about it? Here few options for you:
- Join our FREE 15-20 minutes LaugherZoom session
- Listen to Episode #4: Happiness Contribution™ Show: – Shot 1: Benefits of Laughter in the business world” on Spotify
- Check out my “Laugherzoom YouTube Playlist” or the “Just Laugh” YouTube Playlist.
Do you want to bring more laughter in your own life? I have a few options for you:
- Certified Laughter Yoga Leader training designed to become a LY facilitator
- Open Training: “Stress Buster Joy Blaster” and “Wellbeing Boost” open programs
- Individual coaching: get in touch to discuss further
Do you want to bring more laughter to your team or organization? I have a few options for you:
- Keynote: The Power of Laughter
- Sessions: Happiness Booster Sessions: Laughter Yoga Intro (75 to 90 minutes) or in-depth (3 hours)
- Training: 6 weeks “Stress Buster Joy Blaster” and “Wellbeing Boost“
Stay healthy, happy, and yellow!
Keep Smiling! Start Laughing!
💛 🌻 ☀️ Yours truly, Rosaria
* If you would like to know more about how to pursue Happiness Driven Growth in your company or would like us to deliver an engaging talk or masterclass about it at your event, get in touch or simply follow Rosaria Cirillo on LinkedIn & Instagram to receive her inspirational DOSE of Happiness.
** Customer experience is the perception customers have of the interactions with your company along every touchpoint and communication. It’s their truth. Great customer experiences don’t happen by chance. Instead, they require the orchestration of six disciplines across different teams and the mastering of six competencies. Would you like to learn more and grow your Customer Experience competencies? Get in touch to find out more about our newest HCX Online Academy, our in-company HCX Masterclasses, and HCX (Human-Centred and Happiness-Contributing Experiences) approach.
*** Yellow Factor is available for sales on Amazon/Kindle. Find links to your local Amazon store here. Did you already enjoy reading Yellow Factor and want to help us inspire more people? Helps us spread the word by sharing the quote that most resonated with you and by posting a picture of you with our book on social media using hashtags: #YFITW #YellowFactorInTheWorld #YellowFactorQuote #choosehappiness
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