No laughing matter: Qualitative study of the impact of laughter yoga suggests stress inoculation
Anna Hatchard and Piers Worth
Citation: Hatchard, A., & Worth, P. (2021). ‘No laughing matter: Qualitative study of the impact of laughter yoga suggests stress inoculation.’ European Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 5, 2, 1-11. https://www.nationalwellbeingservice.org/volumes/volume-5-2021/volume-5-article-2/
Background: Laughter is a socially bonding form of communication seen in all humans. Deep breathing is a way of controlling parasympathetic nervous system activity, introducing a sense of calm. In 1995, a medical doctor in India combined laughter, generated through exercises not reliant on humour, and yogic breathing as laughter yoga, designed to address physical, psychological and spiritual health. Despite limited peer reviewed high-quality evidence for its efficacy, it is now practised around the world.
Objective: This qualitative study sought to understand the experiences and perceptions of laughter yoga of members of a UK-based laughter club, meeting once a month for one hour.
Method: Nine laughter club members were interviewed using semi-structured techniques. Interviews were recorded and transcribed, and data was analysed using inductive reflexive thematic analysis to identify themes, exploring the perceived benefits of laughter yoga.
Results: Key findings of this study were that, for these participants, laughter yoga presented an opportunity for human connection and personal growth, together with an inoculation against the stresses of life, providing a valued coping strategy for dealing with life’s challenges. Laughter yoga also represented an overarching narrative journey from initially being sceptical about laughter yoga to becoming an advocate for laughter yoga.
Conclusions: Laughter yoga is an accessible, enjoyable activity, which fits within the model of person centred healthcare and social prescribing.