Help Others. You Might End Up Helping Yourself!
At the beginning of this Coronavirus lockdown, I felt a lot of stress. I was stranded in the US and was uncertain as to when I’d be able to return home to France. I saw a video online of my laughter yoga professor. In it, she merely laughed. Watching this video made me laugh. I laughed for about five minutes, after which time I felt relieved. My spirit felt lighter, and a sense of calm washed over me. Even though my situation hadn’t changed, my perspective had.
I thought if I could feel better under such serious circumstances, just by laughing for a few minutes, others could benefit from laughter too. So I decided to help others laugh and relieve stress.
At first, I offered one session. Then a few days later I facilitated a second. Participants genuinely seemed to enjoy and benefit from these classes, so I asked them if this was something they would participate in regularly. They said “yes.” I’d considered hosting these laugh sessions three times a week, but when they suggested that I hold them daily, I hesitated briefly. In the end, I said yes? Thus my daily 10-minute laughter yoga sessions via Zoom were born.
In the beginning, I tried to attract a lot of people to join me in the fun, but as the idea of laughing for no reason and acting like children seems a little odd to many people, my laugh session didn’t catch on as I had hoped. However, I did have a core group of three or four friends who attended regularly. And we truly bonded.
Some days there were four of us, some days only two, but offering these laugh classes regularly, regardless of the number of people who showed up, benefited me more than I could have imagined. I think I got the better end of the deal than participants did.
I put on makeup every day to be presentable to the group. This little gesture might not seem like a big deal, but it makes me feel better emotionally. Had I not committed to facilitating the laughter sessions, I would not have had a reason to get dressed and made up every day. Had I let myself go, stayed in PJs and groomed less, my mood would have most certainly fallen victim to personal neglect.
The laughter sessions, which have become a habit for me now, increase my mood physiologically, too. Ten minutes of vigorous laughter is enough to get my heart rate up, increase oxygen in my blood, release mood-boosting hormones, and give my ab muscles a great workout. I even have learned to incorporate laughter during stressful activities I experience in daily life.
Last night, I was talking to an airline agent who had had her fair share of calls that day and wasn’t as helpful as I’d found other agents in the past. I became irritated and annoyed with her. So to reduce my frustration, when she placed me on a brief hold, I muted the line and watched and laughed at a funny video on YouTube. When she returned three minutes later, I felt better and was able to maintain my composure. I was surprised that her curt manner hadn’t changed. Then I realized that I had destressed, but she hadn’t.
I’d earned my laughter yoga certification a year and a half ago with no intention of actually using the skill. But with the pandemic, I saw the need, and I filled it, although I was a little resistant to committing to daily sessions at the onset. But now, after almost two months of classes, I’ve experienced the real benefits of doing it. I’d like to become more adept at helping people laugh. I’m even brainstorming ways to bring this skill into my speaking and coaching business. Committing to help others in this way has increased my confidence and given me ideas to propel me forward.
When we do things for others, we can find ourselves reaping the benefit.
I did not start this laughter program for personal gain. In the beginning, I thought I might even be sacrificing my time and energy. But what I’ve found is that by helping others, I helped myself.