A few weeks ago, I attended a laughter yoga class at The Museum of Happiness, London. Part of the class looked at our different emotions, characterising them, imagining what types of laugh they would have, and then playing these characters out. For example, ‘The Ruminator’ might have a melodramatic laugh due to repeatedly capturing you in its repetitive spell of thinking downcast thoughts. ‘The Mindreader’ might clasp its crystal ball whilst cackling evilly as it makes you worry about the future. The ‘Wise Owl’ might hoot happily whilst flapping its wings. The point of the exercises were to encourage each person to notice what he/she was thinking and to recognise that all thoughts (good or bad) are just thoughts and not facts. The exercises were created to let us pause and give space to our thoughts without necessarily engaging with them. It was an interesting concept, so I decided to set myself a Laughter Yoga experiment for the month.
I’m not going to lie. Whilst it’s liberating to let go of your inhibitions, starting laughter yoga does feel like a trip to Wonderland at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. But for anyone whose ever dreamt of going to such a tea party, I really recommend laughter yoga. It’s just as fun and lively as one would imagine the Mad Hatter, March Hare and Dormouse enjoyed each moment within the timeless Wonderland. When feeling overwhelmed or that negativity was going to set in, my aim was to notice that I was feeling these things and then choose to laugh dramatically (either audibly if I was at home, or in my head if I was in public). I wanted to see what might happen. Could laughter yoga really create enough time and space to prevent my mood from tumbling further down the Rabbit Hole?
The answer undoubtedly is Yes. Exploring my emotions as if they were different characters caused me to have a heightened awareness of the types of tricks our minds can play. I was able to catch a thought that I’d usually over analyse and turn the tides on the usual outcome of panic or worry. Whilst it sometimes felt counterintuitive, I found that laughing at troubling emotions in particular helped me to maintain a more neutral mode rather than engaging with negative thoughts or habits. For less negative thoughts, I was able to see these characteristics of my personality with greater clarity. An example is my great sense of pride, which can sometimes enter into a thought stream of superiority. Thankfully laughter yoga helped to dissolve this.
One thing I was very aware of however is that it is still important to acknowledge each of our emotions. It could be very easy to use laughter yoga as a mode to avoid our feelings rather than acknowledge but not indulge in them. So long as practitioners are aware of this potential issue, laughter yoga is an amusing way to take stock and observe thoughts and feelings.
Rather aptly, to close my month of feeling like I was at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, I ended up sat in Alice and the Hatter, a wonderful Alice in Wonderland themed café in Herne Bay (with a new branch recently opened in Canterbury). A nice way to end the experiment was celebrating with tea and cake, whilst assimilating the practices that I found most useful into my every day routine.
If you like the look of the delicious cake stand and are an Alice in Wonderland fan, I recommend a trip to Kent, UK to Alice and the Hatter.