Ease lockdown tension and anxiety with a daily dose of laughter yoga

Laughter yoga teacher Morag Wylie talks about the importance of having a good chuckle and shares some tips for dialling up the feel-good factor

For the past three months, I’ve been running weekly laughter sessions on Zoom. As well as spreading a bit of joy and helping people through lockdown, these have been crucial to my own physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. 

I’m human and, like many people, I’ve had my ups and downs over the past few months. There have been mornings when I really haven’t felt like laughing, yet I’ve had a laughter session to run. It’s taken all my energy just to show up. But that’s when the laughter has worked its magic and transformed my mood. I’ve ended the session feeling bouncy and full of energy. 

So why laughter? It often feels like there’s not much to laugh about out there. Well, in laughter yoga we don’t need a reason to laugh. It’s about using laughter as a tool to change our mood. 

  • Laughter produces endorphins which are our feel-good hormones; they raise our mood and are natural anti-depressants and pain killers.
  • Laughter helps relieve tension and anxiety. How often have you said. “I really need a good laugh”? And, unlike alcohol, laughter has no side effects. 
  • Laughter boosts our immune system and increases the number of natural killer cells (Dr Lee Berk). 

Laughter helps us respond to our challenges in a more positive way. 

So as my laughter sessions have kept me going, I decided to ask friends and followers what funny moments they’ve loved during lockdown. 

Kelly of Be You Mindfulness remembers when she recorded a whole meditation in time lapse and couldn’t understand why it was so fast. Rather than focusing on our mistakes, it’s great to see the funny side of things. 

Anna Bell of Anna Bell Coaching loves doing lawn mower laughter. That’s when we connect with our playful selves and run around the room laughing while we pretend to mow the grass. You could do it in real life. She also adds that the laughter sessions have been especially helpful when she’s supporting people through challenging times. Laughter has been a great release and helped her with self-care. 

Alison Harkins of Limelite Creative recalls a joyful moment watching her children hitting their piñatas blindfold in the garden. 

Bridget has got through lockdown by singing Every Little Cell in my Body is Happy every morning to get these positive endorphins flowing. 

I’ve found lots of laughs in turning lockdown arguments into funny stories. We fell out when I lost hubby’s favourite potato peeler. Each time I told someone, the absurdity of it got funnier and funnier.

Then there was the time when he went off to the supermarket and automatically locked the car. The only problem was, I was still in it and the alarm went off. It wasn’t funny at the time but now I can laugh. 

So all these things are about focusing on the small details of life – finding joy in the moment, laughing in the face of adversity, drawing on our inner strength not to get bogged down in all the negativity.

That’s not to say that some people haven’t had a tough time – home schooling while working from home; worried about losing their jobs; maybe even losing loved ones; maybe you’re self- isolating and feeling really lonely. 

If you are feeling as if there isn’t much to laugh about just now, don’t despair. I’m going to take you through a short exercise to help you find your laughter if it seems far away right now. 

A laughter exercise to try…

Start by standing in front of the mirror and look yourself in the eye. Ignore the messy hair, the no-make-up look, the lockdown extra pounds and look right into the eyes of the person in front of you. Send him/her some love and compassion and a smile. Slowly allow that smile to grow into a wide grin. 

Now take a deep breath in and let it out with a big sigh as if you’re releasing any tension, sadness or worry. 

Let’s do that again: take a deep breath in and let it out with a sigh.

Take another breath in and this time let it out with a smile then a little giggle. Allow that giggle to grow into a chuckle. Then a laugh. Don’t force it but allow it to be gentle and grow naturally.

Place your hands on your belly and move your diaphragm as you let out a belly laugh. 

Tap just under your collar bone letting out some “ha ha ha” sounds. This stimulates your thymus gland where white blood cells are produced. You could pretend to be Tarzan. 

Finish by swinging your arms round your body and take some more deep breaths. Give your body a bit of a shake to release any more stuck energy. 

Well done. Are you feeling any brighter? Do this every morning when you get up.

How to work laughter into your daily routine

  • We’re all doing lots of hand washing just now. When you’re washing your hands sing “Happy Birthday to you” but with no words, just ho ho ha ha ha ha. 
  • Any time the phone goes and there’s no one there, respond with a laugh. It also gets rid of nuisance callers really quickly. 
  • See the funny side when things go wrong. Smile and make up when you argue.
  • Rewatch your favourite comedians. Norman Cousins cured himself of a life-limiting illness by watching Marx Brothers movies. 
  • Janey Godley’s Fan Page and her Nicola Sturgeon voice overs give me lots of laughs. 
  • Turn off the news and find something positive to focus on – it could be birds in the garden, old photos, a favourite book or a piece of feelgood music. 

Morag has been running Falkirk Laughter Club for nearly five years, helping people cope with anxiety, depression and isolation. Laughter helped her regain her confidence and zest for life after being bullied professionally.

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