Scientific research shows that laughter can help to resolve many major workplace issues, but until now there has been no reliable and effective system to deliver laughter. Humor was the only tool available, and it is not reliable and seldom leads to continuous hearty laughter.
Laughter Yoga is a breakthrough laughter delivery system that can enable a person to laugh continuously for 15 to 20 minutes with short breaks of yogic breathing. With new research on laughter, the business world is beginning to consider laughter seriously as a tool to improve workplace performance. However, business people are cost conscious and analytical and may wait for further scientific evidence of Laughter Yoga methods to emerge before adopting it widely.
Factors of work stress and how Laughter Yoga helps
Occupational stress is the most rapidly growing global phenomenon. People are succumbing to work pressure and its damaging effects are being felt in almost all the countries and among all levels of the workforce.
This rise in unhealthy levels of stress leads a broad range of pathological consequences ranging from chronic fatigue to depression, insomnia, anxiety, migraine, emotional upsets, allergies, hypertension, heart disease, peptic ulcers and stomach disorders. It can also alter immune functions, which may in turn lead to the development of cancer. Taken together, these disorders are responsible for a majority of disease, death and disability.
Physical stress: This results from working beyond one's physical capacity. Working continuously without sufficient rest or recharge makes one physically tired and exhausted.
An extended hearty laughter is the safest and the easiest exercise which massages the entire body, oxygenates the blood and other organs leaving one bursting with energy. Blood pressure and pulse rates decrease and there is an increase in creative thinking, productivity and memory.
Mental stress: This stems largely from heavy workloads with tight deadlines, from fear of losing one’s job or pushing too hard to fulfill basic needs. Competing with others or competing with yourself to improve your performance also leads to mental stress. Laugher has the ability to reduce stress by reducing stress hormones. It also boosts self confidence and communication skills that enables one to peak performance at work. Deep breathing exercises eases physical pain and reduces mental tension.
Emotional stress: This is deep-rooted and caused by bad relationships at home or at the workplace. Even highly talented and skilled employees cannot perform well if they are emotionally disturbed. Emotional problems at home reflect at work and vice versa.
Extended hearty laughter helps to develop emotional expression through physical playfulness and a playful mental attitude. This physical playfulness helps to shed these masks and enables the free expression of emotions without fear. Laughter Yoga provides a simple, painless and effective release mechanism to help rid the subconscious mind of pent-up emotions through catharsis during intense laughter. Such release helps builds performance and improves one’s emotional intelligence and communication skills.
Decline in team work: Competitiveness leads to an aggressive work atmosphere in which team work suffers. People develop a selfish and self promoting attitude.
A hearty laughter session creates a positive work environment. People become better as they drop the ‘I’ for a ‘We’. They learn to compliment and practice other values based supportive social behavior that helps in good team building and ensures better productivity.
Insomnia: Sleep is nature's best mechanism to recharge so that one can work ably day after day. But, long hours of work coupled with intense work pressure and tensions take its toll on one’s sleep pattern, which is a cause of many heath related problems.
A good hearty laughter helps improve the sleep pattern and relaxes both the body and the mind.
Stagnation and boredom: The level of job satisfaction and fulfillment falls, leaving a person frustrated and tense. This is a major cause for job hopping as people feel they might have made a wrong choice of a career. They start striving towards a new set of goals which may be unrealistic. This further leads to a dip in performance and self esteem thus keeping them away from happiness.
Extended hearty laughter develops playfulness and new insights that helps one to revive lost creativity. It also helps one to find the source of joy and happiness within, irrespective of the turmoil in business and personal life. It helps people to develop emotional intelligence to connect with others and strengthen their social life.
Anxiety and depression: The business people are more prone to anxiety attacks and depression as they are highly stressed.
Laughter exercises and deep breathing is a great way to eliminate the physical and the mental symptoms of depression and reduce anxiety. Deep diaphragmatic breathing helps to flush the lungs of stale residual air replacing it with rich oxygenated air. Laughter Yoga has the power to raise the spirit and change the mood instantaneously. It releases natural opiates or ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins which ‘kick start’ good feelings and also alleviate pain.
Physical illness: lack of exercise and mental tensions and stressful breathing patterns lead to many physical illnesses.
Extended laughter practice reduces irritability, insomnia, anxiety, depression, allergic disorders, asthma, bronchitis, tension and pains and aches due to arthritis. Boosts the immune system which is the key to good health - reduces absenteeism. It can prevent cardiac diseases as it is the fastest and the best workout regime which benefits both the body and the mind. Laughter is equivalent to aerobic exercise in terms of cardio-pulmonary endurance. According Dr William Fry, 10 minutes o laughter is equivalent to 30 minutes on a rowing machine.
Adjusting to the workplace culture, whether in a new company or not, can be intensely stressful. Adapting to the various aspects of workplace culture such as communication patterns, hierarchy, dress code if any, workspace and most importantly working and behavioral patterns of the boss as well as the co-workers, can be a lesson of life. Maladjustment to workplace cultures may lead to subtle conflicts with colleagues or even with superiors. In many cases office politics or gossips can be major stress inducers.
A hearty laughter changes one’s perspective about things which is an effective way of adjusting to various situations. It establishes a better bond with colleagues as it enhances positive thinking and eliminates a negative attitude.
As companies realize that they can increase their productivity by protecting the health of their employees and by counterbalancing the stress related to the job, they are becoming more proactive in incorporating Laughter Yoga sessions in their work schedules to generate a more conducive environment to boost both the company and individual potential.
Laughter Yoga was first introduced as an experiment in a Mumbai company which made electrical products --- the staff of 25-30 (including the owner and managers) started their workday with a laughter session conducted by the owner and his partner. Three years after initiating this practice the business has grown to almost three times it size, a success attributed by the owner largely to the Laughter Yoga.
An IT company in Copenhagen, Denmark started Laughter Yoga sessions with their staff of 8-10 employees. They continued for over a year, during which they reported an increase in their sales of more than 40%, achieved in an extremely competitive market.
They measured staff stress levels using biofeedback equipment (heart rate, breathing rate and carbon dioxide levels in the breath) and they found a remarkable 75% decrease in stress levels after the sessions.
A timeshare sales company in Hawaii, USA asked Dr. Kataria to run a Laughter Yoga session for their entire 80 person sales team. That day they reported the highest sales of the year, double the target figures.
A study completed in 2007 may help convince the business world of the potential of Laughter Yoga for business. It used a series of Laughter Yoga sessions (rather than funny movies or humor) to generate laughter in the workplace and measured stress and emotional variables before and after the course of the study.
In December 2006, Laughter Yoga International commissioned a scientific research project involving 200 IT professionals in Bangalore, India, to study the effects of Laughter Yoga on their stress levels. Seven Laughter Yoga sessions were administered to half the group over an 18 day period, with physiological, immunological and psychological tests performed on each person before and after the Laughter Yoga sessions.
The study was undertaken by one of India’s leading scientific research organizations. The results of the were extremely positive. In the Laughter Yoga group there was a significant drop in heart rate, blood pressure dropped significantly, cortisol levels were significantly reduced, positive emotions increased by 17% and negative emotions dropped by 27%, perceived stress dropped significantly, and Alexithymia dropped by almost 9%, indicating a significant improvement in emotional intelligence.