Quick Tips to Get Started with Laughter Yoga for Anxiety
Laughter yoga exercises for anxiety can be practiced as a way to reduce stress. In the case of social anxiety (SA), they may be particularly helpful, because most people with SA have a curious relationship with laughter.
First, they have a tendency to think that people who are laughing in their presence might be making fun of them. Second, they tend not to notice genuine joyful laughter or to join in with this laughter with others.
How Does it Work?
I have to admit, I was skeptical that forced laughter could be enjoyable. While I have not participated in an actual laughter yoga class (but I’d like to, since learning more about it), I’ve watched videos of laughter yoga class sessions.
One great example is a video posted by Scandinavian laughter guru Thomas Flindt. I dare you to watch it and try not to laugh.
In the video, Flindt directs the class through six types of laughter yoga exercises: silent laughter, hmmmm laughter, argument laughter, self-laughter, paycheck laughter, and free laughter.
Much of it involves pointing, laughing in pairs, and laughing in an exaggerated way. In the case of paycheck laughter. Pairs of people point at their hands as though they’ve received their paycheck, and then break out into exaggerated laughter.
In the argument laughter exercise, which Flindt says can be used to defuse arguments, the pairs start by pointing fingers at each other and then break out into laughter as they continue to use exaggerated finger movements.
At times, it’s almost as though the ridiculousness of the situation takes over, and the participants start to genuinely laugh at the fake laughter. Indeed, Flindt suggests that they “fake it til they make it” if it doesn’t feel natural at first. This is because he knows that eventually, the real laughter will take over.
The Benefits of Laughter Yoga Exercises for Anxiety
Why practice these laughter exercises? If you’re not laughing enough in your everyday life, which is probably the case for many people with social anxiety, then you’re missing out on the benefits of laughter.
Laughing causes the brain to release dopamine, which produces feelings of happiness. In turn, the release of dopamine and related feelings of happiness can lead you to smile or laugh more.
This positive circle is the opposite of the cycle of panic in anxiety. Just as you can spiral into negativity, you can also spiral into positivity! It’s all up to you. If you don’t believe me, try smiling at yourself in the mirror or laughing for no reason.
The benefits of laughter can even go beyond how you feel mentally. Hormones are also released during laughter that reduce stress and depression and improve cognitive function (thinking).
We also know that your mood and emotions are intertwined with your immune system. How many times have you been under extreme stress and gotten sick?
Stress suppresses immune functioning, while positive thinking, smiles, and laughter help to reverse this suppression. Your mind and body really are connected, though we don’t always think about it that way.
But Won’t I Feel Silly Doing Laughter Yoga Exercises for Anxiety?
Well, yes? That’s kind of the point. Social anxiety has you steeped in fear that when people are laughing, they are laughing at you. For whatever reason, you are more likely to perceive social threats in the environment, as well as a poor ability to regulate your emotions (anxiety) about that threat.
Participating in laughter yoga exercises for anxiety might be the perfect antidote for that fear that other people are laughing at you. Why? Because it gives you the chance to laugh with others in a relatively judgment-free environment.
The things you are laughing at are silly and ridiculous, and everyone is on an even playing field. Nobody is laughing at anyone else, you are laughing as a group.
What about a laughter class specifically for people with social anxiety? I’m not sure if such a thing exists, but I think it would be well worth it. I know that Improv has been used as a treatment for social anxiety, so it’s easy to see how laughter therapy could work as well.
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