Emotional Intelligence through Laughter Yoga
In order to live a fulfilled life, we all have some basic needs, desires and aspirations. There are certain things which give us happiness and pleasure and we want them, whereas, there are some that hinder our fulfillment and goals and we don't want them. Emotions are tools we use to express what we want in life, and refuse to accept what we don't want. We express emotions in the form of thoughts in the mind which keeps coming with a force that drives us to express in the form of words and speech and finally motivates us to take action or show some behavior.
Emotional intelligence is the ability not to express or suppress emotions but to process them in the right way. It is the capacity for recognizing not just your own feelings, but also those of others. It helps to motivate us and manage our emotions in the best possible manner without hurting oneself or others. Normally, we do two things: we either express or suppress emotions. Expression of emotions may lead to conflict with others, while suppression is harmful to self. The right form of expression will have a positive impact and will lead to an appropriate action, whereas when we repress emotions, it gets logged in our subconscious mind leading to negative physical repercussions and health hazards.
Most people carry a baggage of unexpressed emotions which play havoc with our system. Laughter Yoga has a great cathartic ability to release these emotions from the sub-conscious mind. For instance, many people may reflect sadness on their face, not because of something that has happened in the recent past, but because it may have happened a few decades ago or perhaps in their childhood. They may have gone through some negative experiences, which they may not remember. Unconditional laughter helps to release this unknown baggage from their deeper mind and helps them to become emotionally balanced.
Many people act under the impulse of emotions without realizing the consequences which later on leads to regret. Emotional and impulsive decisions can either take a person to the heights or land them in big trouble.
The role of emotional intelligence is to develop a person’s ability to think and rationalize the consequences before acting on an impulse. People who have well developed emotional skills can be more productive as they have mastered the art of controlling emotions while making any important decision in life, whereas people who do not have this ability are more prone to wrong decisions and poor choices.
Laughter Yoga and deep breathing exercises changes the sympathetic response of ‘fight and flight’ mode to parasympathetic mode, which can easily be activated deep diaphragmatic breathing and belly laughter.
I was always a melancholic child. After being sexually abused by a stranger, followed by the suicide of my Dad when I was 6 years old, I retreated from people, into my mind, the only place I felt I had ‘control’. This often resulted in obsessive-compulsive behavior, dissociation from reality, anxiety and depression.
Following the birth of my son in 2005, I experienced severe post-partum/post-natal depression and post-traumatic stress. It was during this time that Laughter Yoga found me. I went to a Laughter Club and thought: “this is fun, I feel good, but I don’t really get it”. Not realizing at the time there was nothing to ‘get’, nothing to comprehend, just the will to surrender to the simplicity of it all.
Five years later, I became a certified Laughter Yoga leader and started a Laughter Club at the local library. Laughter Yoga gave me the confidence I never knew before. It has connected me to greater joy and possibilities. I not only laugh more, I am able to express all emotions more freely and safely: hurt, disappointments, anger, sadness, as well as happiness and light. It remains my therapy. I truly believe in Laughter Yoga as an empowering, transformative tool for depression, mental illness and trauma.
Laughter Yoga enabled me to feel peace and compassion, and has given me the clarity to know my own boundaries and advocate for myself. My proudest Laughter Yoga achievement so far is sharing it with a man currently serving a long sentence in high-security prison. He has, in turn, taught other inmates and created 3 weekly Laughter Clubs in their prison, having a profound effect on inter-relationships, and reducing stress and violence.
Liz Morfea, New York State, USA