20 Jul LAUGHTERSHIP 101 – WHAT IS LAUGHTER YOGA?
I hate saying it this way, as it sounds very new-age, but I “found” Laughter Yoga very much by serendipity. My backstory and history are as tragic as anyone else’s, and that story will unfold here at some point because it is germane to my overall story. But my discovery was a result of research while pursuing my Master’s degree in Industrial & Organizational Psychology from Walden University. I had to research something that would interest me related to organizational psychology. My Google Scholar search was, I believe, “Laughter at work,” and one of the first websites to populate was www.laughteryoga.org. One web click in late 2015 and my life has not been the same since!
“…I’VE FOUND MY THING!”
I did not know right then how I would use Laughter Yoga with my degree, or even if there was anything career-worthy in what I saw, but the videos I saw on day one: people laughing with mirthful abandon, and getting de-stressed and happier in the process; I knew I would do SOMETHING with Laughter Yoga. My wife, who was pursuing her Master’s in Public Administration at Walden, was across the hall in our house, and I called over to her:
“Sweetie, I’ve found my thing!”
Videos and website training links were good, to begin with, but it became clear that to do more with this idea, I needed to start a local club and see if there was any traction with laughter in Alaska. Before I could go much further, my first step was to obtain my Certified Laughter Yoga Leadertraining, which I did in Chicago in 2016. I have successfully run two weekly, free Laughter Clubs in Fairbanks, Alaska since. In late 2017, I earned my Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher training, and I am now able to train others in the Leader certification.
“…NOT AS SILLY OR INTIMIDATING AS IT SOUNDS.”
Many times when I explain to someone that I teach Laughter Yoga, I can see a “mental cringe,” before I have a chance to explain what it is and further explain that no, they will not have to see me in yoga pants. Before I launch any more blogs that a very few will read (thanks to those that do!), I thought I would take a moment to explain as simply as I could what Laughter Yoga is, and why it is not as silly OR intimidating as it sounds.
In simplest terms, Laughter Yoga is an activity in which people stand or sit in a group, make eye contact, and engage in laughter exercises, where the laughter is not a result of jokes or humor. This activity is based on the scientific principle that the body cannot differentiate between simulated or “fake” laughter, and real, genuine laughter. This “exercise laughter” is combined with deep, yogic breathing and followed with guided relaxation. This activity releases endorphins, suppresses cortisol, improves mood and energy, lowers blood pressure, and is a whole LOT of fun to do!
The best way to understand Laughter Yoga is to engage in a LY session. If you are not there yet, the second-best (and probably most practical while reading this) is to watch a video about Laughter Yoga. CLICK HERE to go to my Video page.
I’ve saved the best part for last.
THE BEST PART?
Laughter Yoga can be done by anyone, no matter age, experience, or physical ability level. In my weekly class, I regularly have a 2-year old and a 97-year old, IN THE SAME CLASS!! That is right, this engaging, fun, and healthy activity can be done with children, seniors, developmentally or physically challenged, summer camps, in water, at parks and recreation programs, schools, businesses, non-profit organizations, hospitals, prisoners, the possibilities are endless!
OK MIKE, THIS SOUNDS GREAT, WHAT DO I DO NEXT?
Contact me. It is that simple, really. I work with individuals and groups of all sizes. If you want to be happier in whatever you do, I can help! The first step is to talk, so let’s do it! Ho Ho, Ha Ha Ha!
Stress management is defined many ways by many people with much more education than I. However, being a human being, I do consider myself to be a subject matter expert on stress; since we all experience varying levels of stress every single day of our lives. One of life’s great truths is that we will never eliminate stress. Whenever I encounter someone who says to me:
“Mike, I want to live a stress-free life.”
All I can think is:
“How boring would THAT be?”
Try to imagine your life with NO stress. I cannot even fathom such a thing. It actually creeps me aout a little. So…bland.
For a few bona fides, I have a Master of Science degree in Industrial & Organizational Psychology from Walden University. Broadly explained, this field of study examines the psychology of human behavior in groups. In my degree program, I specialized in leadership development and coaching, which led me to form Laughtership LLC. But this blog post is not about my business, just how I got to be writing about stress and stress management.
In this article, I will explore two dualities found in the broad topic of stress. First, we will examine the terms Eustress and Distress. We will then take a look at the duality found within the idea of stress management itself.
EUSTRESS VS. DISTRESS.
This is a very simple concept. Eustress is “good stress” and Distress, as the name implies, is “bad stress.” But while a simple idea, it is important to keep the two differences in mind.
Not all stress is bad. In fact, we need some stress to function in daily life. Eustress is what gives us a competitive spirit, provides motivation and focuses our energy and attention. Most importantly, eustress is typically short-term and “within our coping abilities.” Harnessing eustress can be like trying to catch a wet dog: unpleasant and messy. The same stressor that a person uses as eustress can turn to distress if even one of the conditions change.
For example, if you are someone that likes to work right up to deadlines, and use eustress to help you “perform under pressure,” that eustress is only beneficial if it is kept short term (acute). If your company goes through a period of several months in a row of “crisis mode,” and there are endless deadlines, that very same eustress can become distress as it becomes chronic (long-term). This can also happen if the stressor moves outside of your coping abilities.
Distress is characterized by anxiety, decreased performance, illness, cardiovascular disease, and a host of other physical and psychological effects. I will discuss these in more detail in a future blog but suffice it to say, none of it is good.
THE DUALITY OF STRESS MANAGEMENT
This is another fairly simple concept to understand. First, we need techniques to reduce as much stress as possible before it occurs. Second, we need to learn skills and techniques in managing stress as it emerges. There has been a lot of research done (understatement!) on stress management, but many researchers agree: one of the best ways to manage both sides of stress is to engage in meditation, yoga, or other mindful pursuits.
There have been many articles done on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), one I found easy to understand is HERE. MBSR uses Buddhist mindfulness meditation techniques for stress reduction. Mindfulness is focused on living in the moment, and being fully present in everything you do.
I have not studies MBSR beyond the basics, but the concept of mindfulness resonates deeply with me. To me, it is similar to the concept of Flow, which was a concept developed by Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi. It is a fascinating study that I do not have time to do justice to; this blog is already too long. Follow the links to learn more.
My entire website is dedicated to explaining what I do and why, but where that intersects with this article is this:
I teach laughter as a stress management and workplace happiness tool. Not humorous joke-based laughter. Instead, this is unconditional, mirthful laughter, done as an exercise. There are many ties between this type of laughter and mindfulness, and mirthful laughter and creating flow. To find out more, click HERE.
Please CONTACT ME to schedule a free consultation to explore this idea of “better business through laughter.”
I challenge you to discover how laughter can change your life!