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Applying laughter yoga to destress your work day

Photo Of Sad Business Team Attending The Seminar recently published 8 ways to stress less at work. One of those strategies was laughing, specifically practising laughter yoga.

Overseas, organisations like BBC and Google have been known to incorporate laughter yoga as a wellbeing practice for staff. In my home country, Australia, the idea still raises a few eyebrows, usually followed by a smirk and often a comment such as ‘You laugh for no reason, without a joke, without being funny? You must be mad/cray-cray/loopy.’ Such reaction is not exactly affirming for the thin-skinned or faint-hearted. Then again, I was a sceptic once upon a time, as was my laughter buddy in training in India (a Malaysian medical doctor): we changed our minds as we learned more.

Laughter yoga, blending the deep slow breath of yoga with playful simulated laughter exercises and gentle stretches, is ordinarily practised in a group and by nature it is raucous. While I deliver laughter yoga sessions in workplaces now, they’re usually one-offs, relating to professional development days where team building is required. I dream of the workplace-based laughter clubs becoming a ‘thing’ in Australia, perhaps at the beginning of the day or at lunchtime.

Many ‘serious’ laughers (myself included) incorporate the practice alone in our everyday—for us, it is exercise just like going for a walk or hitting the gym or swimming laps or pedalling along the bike path. I practise silently in the morning in deference to those I live with (as does Laughter Yoga’s founder Dr Madan Kataria whose wife Madhuri appreciates a few more ZZZZs at 4am rather than hearing his hearty hohoho).

I put the technique to use when caught in traffic for a stress-free drive to work appointments.

After a difficult meeting or complicated long telephone conversation, I’m known to, in a sense, pat myself on the back, clapping to the chant ‘Very good, very good’ and then pumping the air with a triumphant ‘YAY’!

There are times when it would be helpful and healthful to laugh out loud—but the environment is not appropriate.

Let me tell you how some regular laughers at a Brisbane community laughter club  apply and adapt exercise they learned at laughter club as a stress reliever in their workplaces.

A toilet break becomes a stress break

In need, Louise takes off to the ladies’ bathroom and installs herself in a toilet cubicle. Standing, I hasten to add. And for a few minutes, under her breath, she does the Calcutta laugh under her breath. This is quite a physical laughter yoga exercise. It involves pressing the hands, open palms down, to ‘hoho’ and pushing the open hands out in front of the body to ‘haha’. Starting slow, building up in speed, then slowing down again. Then she breathes, quietly and deeply for a few minutes.

Louise’s inclusion of a laughter yoga exercise peppered through the day acts as a circuit-breaker, enabling focus and regrouping, diminishing anxiety.

Give me 7

Robert has a high-pressure job in the banking industry. His days are filled with meetings and often, frustratingly, unanswered questions. There are times when counting to 10 is not enough! Robert places his hands in his lap and silently repeatedly chants ‘Ho,ho,ho,ho,ha,ha,ha’ while touching his thumbs to index finger, then middle finger, ring finger and pinkie before returning via ring, middle and index.

Think about how you could incorporate laughter yoga exercises in your everyday workplace to cut stress and boost your productivity.

(c) Heather Joy Campbell 2018

Founder of The Happydemic, Heather Joy Campbell is an Australian Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher and Global Ambassador of Laughter Yoga International. Brisbane-based, she travels throughout Queensland — and beyond — facilitating laughter yoga sessions in workplaces, aged care facilities and communities, presents at conferences and delivers laughter yoga leader training.