A few years ago, I qualified as a Certified Laughter Yoga leader/instructor with United Mind. ‘What on earth is that?!’ I hear you say…
Laughter Yoga is a non-bendy, non-intrusive, all-inclusive, fun ‘workout’ that helps individuals manage and deal with stress. Originating from India, combining yoga breathing technique and laughter, it was created by medical Dr Madan Kataria and is based on the simple (and proven!) hypothesis that laughter has huge both psychological and physiological benefits. The business world is going crazy for it and it’s no wonder why.
On my course, after laughing with a group of strangers for three days, one of the delegates – a lady with advanced cancer who had been in pain for years since her diagnosis – told the group she had been in no discomfort whatsoever for the duration of the programme, including in the evenings after the course. Laughter had, genuinely, been the best medicine. Incredible. But, perhaps, not surprising.
We all know laughter is good for us. Research supports this and scientists and psychologists have long recognised that laughter releases endorphins, reduces cortisol (the stress hormone), increases oxygen supply to the brain and, more fundamentally, builds, develops and cements human relationships.
The problem is we’re not laughing enough at work. Why? I’d suggest:
The obvious reason - we’re often too busy and rushed.
We’re under pressure to deliver results. We don’t have the head ‘space’ for laughter - it doesn't feel like 'core business'.
Laughing is often treated with suspicion at work. In England, it’s a bit of a cultural thing – any extreme of emotion at work can cause awkwardness (why so many people run a mile when they see a colleague crying at work instead of simply asking what’s wrong).
So, what can we do? Laugh more? Probably, but not like a maniac. No-one wants that. Practice laughter yoga at work? Maybe. But maybe that’s not your thing. Have more fun? Yes. That’s it. When do we have fun at work? When we’re allowed to be authentic. In my opinion, fun comes from authenticity – being yourself. Laughter comes as a result, bringing perspective and levity to what is often an overly serious environment.
We’re not talking about frivolous fun. We’re talking about human fun - connecting with people, building rapport, common ground and then sharing stories and laughing with each other. And rapport is built face-to-face, not by email.
In the training room, laughter, levity and humour are vital learning tools. When we laugh we relax. When we relax we hear and listen more. When we listen more we build deep trust. When we build trust, we can laugh at each other. And that’s where some real magic happens.
And you could qualify as a laughter yoga instructor. I’d thoroughly recommend it.