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How Laughter Yoga Develops Playfulness

The Importance Of Play

According to Developmental psychology and some anthropological research, play is essential to the development of the emotional well-being. The ability to express emotions is fundamental to satisfaction and fulfillment. Play also helps us to acquire language skills and social norms that shape our very persona.

Children have a natural instinct to play which helps them to develop a healthy and secure coping mechanism in adulthood. But those, who have been deprived of adequate play in childhood, suffer from a lack of emotional balance and the ability to face critical situations. However, learning to play as adults can diminish the ill effects of this deprivation and build up their mental and intellectual abilities. Therefore, it is essential that we learn the art of childlike playfulness and indulge in lighthearted activities in order to achieve inner joy, happiness and a positive attitude towards life.

Normally, as children we find it very easy to laugh, but in the process of growing up we somehow lose our ability to laugh. Adult pressure and work responsibilities condition us to suppress our true feelings and indulge in behavior considered appropriate to all. We give up playing and soon find ourselves under layers of seriousness, responsibilities and insecurities. This leads to negative conditioning and generates negative thoughts which can be detrimental to one’s emotional well being. Laughter has the power to trigger this playfulness and break down all psychological barriers and inhibitions at any stage of life.

How Laughter Yoga Works To Promote Playfulness

Laughter Yoga helps to discover the lost child in us and promotes playfulness which is an essential part of learning social skills during childhood and can be used to continue to develop social abilities and emotional intelligence in later life. Playful interaction within a group stimulates right brain activities and skills which can enhance group performance.

Laughter Yoga is a unique exercise routine, which combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing. Anyone can laugh without relying on humor, jokes or comedy. Laughter is initially simulated as a physical exercise while maintaining eye contact with others in the group and promoting childlike playfulness. In most cases this soon leads to real and contagious laughter.

Laughter Yoga techniques are effective even for people who have lost their laughter or have absolutely no sense of humor. People often tell us, “I am depressed, I cannot laugh”, or “I don’t feel like laughing”. We say, “That doesn’t matter. Just bring us your willing body and we will make you laugh.”

Theory Of Motion Creates Emotion

There is a well-established link between the body and the mind. Whatever happens to the mind happens to the body. For example, if you observe sad and depressed people, their bodies are also depressed. They walk slowly, talk slowly and all their body functions are sluggish.

The opposite is also true; whatever happens to the body happens to the mind. I remember my father telling me, ‘If you’re sad, don't sit idle. Keep doing some physical work or go for a walk and jog, you will feel better’. And he was right; I always felt better by keeping my body active.

This shows that there is a two-way link between the body and mind. If we change the quality of our thoughts, we can change the body behavior and if we can bring a change in body behavior by changing physical gestures voluntarily, one can experience the change in the mental state.

Laughter Yoga has the power to generate these changes and facilitate our well-being. There is a saying in the Laughter clubs: ‘if you can't laugh, bring your body to the laughter club’!!

Physical Playfulness Leads To Playful Mental Attitude

Developing a playful mental attitude might be difficult for some who are shy and inhibited. Moreover, in the process of growing up we develop negative conditioning that further hampers our mental and physical playfulness. The two way link between the body and the mind helps us to restore playfulness. As you learn to move your body playfully, the playful mental attitude develops automatically. Training body intelligence is definitely easier than mind intelligence. Laughter yoga being a group activity helps us to do protective playful activities until our body develops the intelligence to create a new behavior of playfulness.

The aim is to develop true playfulness which is non-competitive and not goal oriented. This will help to recharge our creative abilities with effortless ease as there is no scuttle to achieve your goals. Non-competitive play in Laughter Yoga clubs is open ended and we play just for the sake of playing. It brings true feelings of joy and fun.

Laughter Is Not About Laughing

It is actually about cultivating childlike playfulness. Once you learn to play, you don’t have to laugh. Laughter will be the natural outcome of your playful inner child. If you want to get rid of your dependence on jokes and still want to laugh, simply become childlike. In the initial stages of the growth of Laughter Clubs, when we found jokes could not make us laugh much, we forced ourselves to laugh in a group, but many people found it mechanical and got bored with the activity. Though laughing in a group provides a stimulus, a childlike behavior by adults helps them to get over their inhibitions and actually loosen up. Therefore, we incorporate a of childlike actions in the laughter club like producing funny sounds by swiveling the tongue inside the mouth, tapping air-filled cheeks, laughing like a child and talking Gibberish. We keep reminding our members about the importance of being like a child.

Gibberish Talking

Talking Gibberish is one of the best methods to drain stress. It has good cathartic value. But in Laughter Clubs, we use this as a tool to remove inhibitions and act like children, so as to create laughter. It is also used as a warm-up exercise in Laughter Clubs to help people to open up. In addition to Gibberish talking, there are many humor activating techniques like Gibberish singing, Gibberish contests and whiff-piff talking, which help members to generate laughter.

Over the past many years, we have developed several techniques of talking Gibberish in Laughter Clubs. Basically there are two types of Gibberish. The first is fast verbal Gibberish, where people continuously talk whatever comes to their mind, while no one is listening. This is a lot of fun and people enjoy the chaos. The second type of Gibberish is conversational Gibberish, where two people talk to each other as if they are conversing. They express different types of emotions while talking in Gibberish leading to a cathartic release of feelings. This game is very creative, and since nothing is decided about what they are going to talk, it helps to activate the right side of the brain which is the greater part of our brain. We can even create theme stories and express them through Gibberish.

There is also a game called Gibberish translation in which one person talks Gibberish and the other translates the fuss language into whatever he understands. He basically says all funny things made up on the spot. There is Gibberish singing as well in which people can sing in any language, making any melody or tune. Gibberish talking is a very powerful tool for developing creative abilities as well as it is a lot of fun.

Benefits Of Playfulness

This cultivation of playfulness through laughter is especially beneficial in schools, workplaces, prisons and other organizations and institutes that require group learning. As people indulge in playful activity, inhibitions break down and people loosen up. A certain bond is established that promotes sharing, caring and freedom of expression. Laughter with its playful technique is a powerful tool to help in the release of emotions and generate positive thoughts and a childlike freedom that helps to laugh unconditionally without any reason.

Once released, natural laughter is hard to stop. Even in a country like India where people hardly ever laugh or smile in public, hundreds of thousands of people laugh daily in public parks. People who never used to smile are now laughing playfully.

Promotes Playfulness In The Workplace

Laughing loudly and frequently in your place of work might prove to be very inappropriate to some, who might want to focus on work and concentrate. Though there may be few who believe in this phenomenon and enjoy the habit, it would nevertheless disturb the office environment and cause a distraction. The sound of laughter may also perturb those who are feeling low and are in no mood for a joyful laugh.

To overcome this hitch, if one uses laughter as a committed exercise and promotes it as a health building exercise, which gives physical benefits and improves the state of mind by producing good chemicals within the body, it will very well be accepted. The positive physiological changes will provide for more efficiency and better connectivity with colleagues. Laughter yoga also helps in lifting the mood which will ultimately lead to better productivity and enhanced potential of the workers.

An ongoing research on laughter, humor and play restates that people in business and at work places are more open to the idea of experimenting in the workplace. Playfulness in business settings may not be possible in a spontaneous way as it needs to be structured and organized. People need to make a commitment and get involved in playful activities thus developing their creative skills and improving the work ambience. It also provides a safe environment to introduce new schemes, make new strategies, set up discussions and debates, develop common visions and replace old assumptions with new ideas.

Helps Generate New Ideas

Playfulness activates the right side of the brain which deals with creativity. In the beginning, it may be difficult to generate new ideas but the best way is to continue toiling with innovative thoughts, till gradually, the brain starts generating imaginative and original ideas. It works like a headlight of a car. When traveling in the dark, on a highway, the headlights barely perceive a 100 meters of the road. But, as soon as you cover the distance, you see another 100 hundred meters ahead. Every creative brain works exactly the same way. In creating novel ideas, one never forgets the complete picture.

Overcomes Seriousness

With responsibility, one gets cast into a serious mould and invariably this seriousness gets imbibed into our whole psyche and behavior. It starts affecting one’s personal and social interactions which lead to cyclic emotional stress and problems. People forget to relax. Like laughter, seriousness is contagious. It gets rubbed off on to colleagues and clients. This state is not conducive to efficiency and creativity. One may achieve the targets and expected outcomes but meaningful growth gets retarded. Therefore, ‘Take your work seriously -- take yourself lightly’.

If you don't have any idea how to overcome your seriousness, simply start playing and see your seriousness dissipate into joyfulness.

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