Laughter yoga: Therapy while you work

By Gillian Sharpe
BBC Scotland News

Image caption,
BBC Scotland journalists took part in a short taster session of "laughter yoga"

Can having a good laugh or even making a complete fool of yourself with colleagues really help you at work?

Can it make you more productive, boost your energy and reduce absenteeism? Some people argue exactly that.

"I absolutely 100% expect people to be sceptical," says Sharon Miller, director of in-house training events specialist Joyworks!

"Especially when their boss has brought in a laughter person in to do a workshop," she continues with a laugh.

She is an exponent of so called "laughter yoga". It was started in India and aims to harness the therapeutic power of laughter to help people in a business or other setting.

BBC Scotland's Business Scotland radio programme decided to mark the new year by looking at various businesses which rely, at least in part, on members of the public wanting to feel better about themselves - and also at this company which instead tries to make other businesses feel better.

Cheesy jokes

In a small meeting room at the BBC's Pacific Quay headquarters, the blinds are drawn to shield what is going on from the eyes of the curious.

Inside, a small group of journalists is gathered somewhat nervously in a circle. They have come to take part in a short taster session of laughter yoga.

The session kicks off with people being asked to tell a cheesy joke or two to break the ice and then it is down to the serious business of a "laughter hello".

The session leader turns to her left, shakes hands and starts to laugh, loudly and heartily for absolutely no reason. The handshake and the laugh are then passed around the circle.

It is a tentative business at first but by the end everyone is allowing themselves side-splitting laughs - even though nothing funny has happened.

"It's like glue", argues Sharon Miller. "Once you laugh with someone you're never the same again."

She has done laughter workshops for a number of large companies and other institutions. She says research done in India and the United States shows it can have real effects.

"You see your colleagues in a different light, it breaks down hierarchies, it reduces stress.

Image caption,
Sharon Miller says laughter workshops can have a real effect in workplaces

"It brings the whole team together, so any little niggles that are happening, any petty things that are happening within the staff, you find after a laughter workshop they're dissipated and of course you're more relaxed and you're more creative."

Another of the exercises in the session involves running around the room, weaving in and out of colleagues, waving hands in the air and laughing wildly.

It is not a usual way to spend 15 minutes with your workmates, so how is it going down?

"We're all a bit sensible, we're all a bit careful," says one of those who took part.

"We're all a bit quiet and opportunities like that to break out of your comfort zone are really good."

With the short session coming to an end, Sharon Miller introduces some deep breathing to the group. This is to bring the tempo down before people get on with their day.

With that there is a final flourish as the group, standing in a circle, jumps forward together with a shout. Then it is away from the laughter and back to the desk.

You can hear more about the wider topic of "New year, new you" on the Business Scotland programme on Saturday, just after the 06:00 news, and again on Sunday morning after the news at 10:00.

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