Getting the giggles is good for the soul, by Sharon Miller from Joyworks Laughter Yoga

Joy Works

"Laughing in full abandonment is very good for your health – Dalai Lama"

When anyone thinks of the Dalai Lama they will remember his cheeky sense of fun and playful childish spirit.

All qualities my grandfather had. He was a highly spirited man. Slapping his hands on his knees and throwing his arms in the air to accompany his cackles. This was quickly followed by an ‘Aw, you’ve got to laugh! What else? What else?' Egging anyone he was talking with to share more. The sparkle in his eyes and his inquisitive passion for life (although house bound) left us all humble.

I’d ask him how he was in the morning and he’d say, ‘I’m grand hen! I woke up!’  

Are you at this moment reminiscing about someone whose love for life changed your own? 

Perhaps even some of your residents, who on a daily basis give you the gift of perception.

I'm certain that my grandfather would be looking down on me and be a very happy chappie knowing I make people laugh for a living! His retort to me when I shared my woes was always, ‘For goodness sake hen! You are awful serious. You want to lighten up!’

Don’t let the dimples in the photograph kid you!

We can all forget the simple but powerful gifts we inherently have to smile, laugh, breathe, relate and feel good. Gifts that when utilised make our lives and everyone around us easier and more beautiful. 

Sometimes we can get in the groove of moaning and complaining, especially if everyone around us is doing the same. Right? Stand in a Post Office queue and watch how contagious misery is!  

The games a bogey!

We are human. Imperfectly perfect, and don’t we just thrive when we allow ourselves and each other to be just that?  We can’t be happy when we are beating ourselves up.  A good friend would jokingly say to me, ‘Get off the cross! We need the wood!’ 

In fact, science tells us we are wired that way. Unconsciously we ‘mirror’ each other, so rather than giving ourselves a hard time and simply bringing awareness to our mood or what we are saying then having compassion and kindness for where we are then deciding to change, to be happy anyway. My, what a gift to ourselves. Especially when in a role giving so much of yourself to the care of others.

 ‘We are where we are and that’s ok. Help is on the way!’ Such a good mantra that I often use.

I was raised by my grandparents with ‘Sunday school’ values and I’m immensely grateful. Nothing makes me happier than being in a room with wise souls. A room filled with older people who laugh easily, without a care of what anyone thinks of them, who realise the profound preciousness of simply sharing time.   

Perhaps not true for all your residents, but remember those mirror neurons! Happiness and misery are both contagious.

If all else fails? We can just laugh! Laugh for no reason. Laugh because it feels so good. Laugh because it’s like glue. It bonds us altogether. Laugh because we can. Laugh because it lights us up. Laugh because as Victor Hugo says ‘It’s the shortest distance between two people!' Or as the Japanese proverb goes, ‘Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods’. Laugh because there is immense power in choosing how we feel. 

For the last thirty years scientists have been proving that laughter really is the best medicine! It reduces stress, the ability to cope with stress. It balances the hormone system. Improves oxygenation, produces endorphins and releases endorphins and releases neurotransmitters. Laughter creates a feel good chemistry that acts as a natural painkiller and accelerates healing.

Joyworks was 11 years old in March. We combine the powerful concoction of laughter, music, movement and dance in our sessions and often witness profound transformations within groups and individuals in such a short space of time.

In fact, it’s phenomenal to see how common place Laughter Therapy is across the globe. When I first began we were the first in Scotland! We regularly deliver workshops, events and training within Care Homes, the NHS, Cancer Recovery Projects, Epilepsy Connections, Addiction and Mental Health organisations. Schools, Universities and Colleges bring us in for Health and Well-Being days or Mental Health Awareness. It’s an utter privilege to witness how we all (no matter what our age or background) desire that human connection, love to laugh and can all receive the benefits.

We’ve trained up over 120 Certified Laughter Yoga Leaders who are spreading the joy of ‘Laughing for no reason’.

Laughter Yoga is laughing combined with stretching, breathing and clapping and developed by a Medical Doctor Madan Kataria in India away back in 1995. It was such a pleasure to train with him in India in Bangalore in 2010. Many people thought it was just a fad! It’s now a scientifically proven way to keep healthy and happy – without the need of humour or comedy!

Combine that with the evidence based research from serious institutions at Wharton, MIT and London Business School on the benefits of laughter in the workplace for productivity means that even more workplaces and organisations are asking us to deliver sessions and projects. From Coca Cola to Diageo to Clyde Shipbuilders and Nestle!  Last week I travelled to Vienna to kick off a conference for Ofev. 



Which member of the team has got the best laugh?

How about asking them to use ‘Laughter’ for shift changes, or to lighten up a meeting or training day?

‘When we laugh our world changes’  Dr Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga.

If laughter is so good for us – why leave it to chance?  I hope you will celebrate Sunday, ‘The International Moment of  Laughter day' by just having a laugh! Or here are some more suggestions that you could try...

  1. Encourage residents to share funny stories from when they were, ‘wee’. When they finish telling their story everyone has to laugh like they’ve never laughed before (even if it’s not funny –especially if it’s not funny!)  Finish with everyone giving a big arms stretched up and hands in the air, ‘Very Good Very good Yeh!’
  2.  Play uplifting songs such as ‘Sunny Side of The Street’ or ‘Laughing Policeman’  ‘Daisy Daisy’ ‘you made me love you’.  Find bits in the song to cut of the music and everyone just joins in laughing before re-starting the song. It’s contagious and the combination of music. Singing, old songs, laughter and just being silly is wonderful.  Residents could be on their feet dancing then when the music stops? Just laugh!
  3. Have a Laughter Yoga session- with stretching, clapping ‘ Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha (mirrors diaphragmatic breathing)  then laughter yoga exercises such as  pointing to one another and showing aches and pains and laughing , being on pretend phone and laughing, pushing in false teeth and laughing .. You get the idea… It’s not rocket science!

Be the change you want to see’ Ghandi. Decide you are going to have the best day ever and uplift everyone you meet. Decide that you are the gift today to everyone you meet.

Sharon Miller, Director, Joyworks