Let’s face it… anyone can laugh when things are good. But what’s so wonderful about laughter yoga is that it teaches people how to laugh unconditionally so they can do so even during difficult times. Imagine being able to keep a positive mental attitude regardless of how horrible circumstances seem. Strength in adversity—what an awesome coping mechanism! This is one of the many benefits that regular laughter can provide. Best of all, it is free, anyone can do it and it’s available anytime.
Every time I introduce laughter yoga to a new group, I share these words. Having uttered them time and time again, I’ve become immune to the significance, meaning and impact that they can potentially have on those hearing them for the first time. All that changed for me a few weeks ago during a session I led as part of a “Managing Holiday Stress” series.
While the majority of the participants that day were open, receptive and willing to attempt the various exercises that I introduced to them, there was a man and a woman present with scowls on their faces along with matching attitudes that blatantly projected — "I dare you to make me laugh."
Turn That Frown Upside Down
They know this is laughter exercise. Why did they come here if they really don’t want to participate? They are going to challenge me, be negative and ruin the experience for everyone… I nervously thought to myself. Not wanting to let their demeanors get to me, I carried on with the agenda, keeping the atmosphere light and uplifting. Then an amazing thing happened. As time went on, these two relaxed, opened up and actually began enjoying themselves. This duo that arrived weighed down with negativity lightened up, laughed, and even encouraged others to do the same. The transformation was amazing and heart-warming.
As I do at each of the sessions I lead, prior to beginning the activity, I instructed these participants to close their eyes, take a moment or two and rate how they were feeling on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “I feel horrible” and 10 being “I couldn’t feel any better.” As our time together was coming to a close, I told the group to repeat this assessment. I then asked if anyone felt any different than they had when they first arrived.
Surprisingly, the two who came in with the worst attitudes, spoke up and shared how they were changed by the class. The gentleman told the gathering that he usually keeps his emotions under check. However, for the first time he was able to open up and he wanted to continue doing these exercises on a regular basis. The woman shared that she came in not expecting to laugh and was surprised that she was able to do so.
I quickly realized that these two folks didn’t come to dare, test or defy me. In fact, their actions and expressions had absolutely nothing to do with me. Instead, it became crystal clear that they came searching for a way to lighten their mood, ease some of their burdens and experience joy and laughter. Fortunately, they found it.
All of us present felt the magnitude of the transformative experience we just shared. It was such a powerful testament to the benefits of laughter yoga! And I'm looking forward to helping facilitiate more, and in our own little ways, we can do the same and help othes find laughter in their lives.