In my former corporate life, I worked in some terrific teams. Life was ruled by deadlines. It was fast and there was variety. There were few ‘dull’ moments. We enjoyed laughs together – although we’d clam up as soon as the boss was in earshot in case she took our mirth to be a sign of not having enough to do. In actual fact, our best problem-solving emerged from those impromptu giggle-filled huddles.
It’s often said that laughter is the best medicine.
Harness laughter as a physical exercise – laughter yoga – and you have a powerful tool for workplace wellbeing. How so?
Benefits of laughter yoga in the workplace
To my mind, there are 5 compelling reasons to bring laughter yoga into your workplace.
- Laughter yoga is a stressbuster. Participants can feel the difference even in the first session. It’s almost like having an instant vacation. As with any exercise, the more frequent it’s repeated, the more lasting the results.
- Laughter yoga’s breathwork increases the body’s net oxygen supply for optimal performance, concentration, and energy.
- The playfulness of laughter yoga taps into the right side of the brain, the seat of creativity. This can help nurture fresh approaches to problem-solving.
- Laughter yoga enhances physical and psychological health.
- When practiced in team situations, laughter yoga quickly breaks down barriers and encourages connection and collaboration.
Evidence of laughter yoga working
There’s been a lot of scientific research over the years about laughter per se.
There’s growing research into the science of happiness too and the benefits that workplaces can enjoy, including collaboration, cooperation and resilience.
Three studies have specifically looked at laughter yoga and the workplace. Let me share the results of those here.
Laughter yoga in an Indian workplace study
The largest was in Bangalore, India, involving 200 participants from 3 IT companies, split into two groups. All underwent physiological, biochemical and psychological testing but only one group experienced laughter yoga (7, 20-minute sessions over 18 days).
Very real physical benefits were revealed:
- Blood pressure dropped significantly.
- Heart rate lowered.
- Levels of the stress hormone cortisol were down.
Psychologically, the laughter yoga group felt significantly more positive and far less negative emotions. Tellingly, their level of perceived stress fell 11%.
The researchers reasoned that laugher yoga could improve quality of work and productivity and improve communications, creating a more harmonious workplace.
Laughter yoga in an American workplace study
In the United States, 33 employees of a behavioural health centre took part in 15-minute laughter yoga sessions for 15 consecutive workdays.
The researchers used a self-report, self-efficacy questionnaire, before and 90 days later.
Overall, participants let more optimistic, motivated, adaptable and focused. They reported greater empathy for others as well as better acceptance of their own good and bad aspects.
Laughter yoga in an Australian workplace study
Laughter Yoga Australia partnered with Deakin University to gauge the impact of the practice on 2 Melbourne businesses grappling with stress. General life satisfaction, personal wellbeing, mood, self-esteem, optimism, control and workplace wellbeing were measured.
After just one session, there were measurable improvements—some by as much as 10%!
Stress, depression, and anxiety were also measured, and they all decreased, again by as much as 10%.
When the laughter yoga sessions ceased after one month, there was some slippage but not back to square one.
And there was one, to my mind outstanding, lasting benefit: workplace wellbeing was retained long after the program ended.
How can laughter yoga be brought to a workplace
Laughter yoga can become part of workplace wellbeing in a number of ways.
Stress-busting or team-building sessions are popular as part of professional development days. These are active and experiential and last about 60 minutes. These are also a great ‘reward’ for a job well done.
More in-depth ‘technical’ workshops (90-120 minutes) are available. These are a little more in-depth but experiencing remains a key to learning.
Regular weekly short burst 30-minute lunchtime (or before work) ‘classes’ are gold. Fortnightly or monthly laughter sessions can be helpful. A trained facilitator can be engaged to come to the workplace or a staff member can do the 2-day basic laughter leader training and deliver sessions at work to colleagues.
Laughter yoga for every body
Laughter yoga offers an accessible and adaptable wellbeing exercise that is for all bodies.
You don’t need to dress in gym clothes. It can be done in regular workwear. Loosen a tie or belt, kick off the shoes: stretch, clap hands, breathe and laugh.
While not a silver bullet, laughter yoga is something more human resource professionals, mental health professionals, and business people are turning to as part of an ‘easy’ affordable response to workplace wellbeing programs.
(c) 2019 Heather Joy Campbell