Work-related stress is no joke, but here’s proof that laughter could be the best medicine

Studies show a majority of Americans are more stressed out than ever.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 3:29 PM HST|Updated: May. 25, 2023 at 4:57 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Studies show a majority of Americans are more stressed out than ever.

A recent WalletHub report ranked Hawaii eighth in the country for work-related stress.

And while mental illness is no laughing matter, employers are finding creative ways to help workers, including bringing more laughter into the workplace.

Shriners Children’s Hospital in Makiki offered its employees a session of laughter yoga, designed to get them laughing for their mental health.

Life coach Jenna Pascual teaches laughter yoga to companies like Google and Salesforce, walking workers through a series of breathing exercises and movements that may look silly but are designed to reduce stress, boost immunity, lower high blood pressure and improve your mood.

“It helps activate our organs and stimulates our blood flow and oxygen even more,” she said.

After some initial awkwardness, participants threw out their inhibitions and laughed through imaginary scenarios, from flying through the air to playing carnival games.

Most participants said the session left them sweaty and in stitches ― the good kind.

“It’s nice to take this time for mental health in the middle of the workday. We all need it,” said Michele Chee, director of Rehabilitation Services at Shriners. “I love practicing yoga. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of laughing yoga. And it was a great way to incorporate a little bit of mindfulness and just relaxation throughout the day.”

Even skeptics agree that laughter doesn’t hurt when dealing with stress, especially when it’s shared with others.

And it’s one way for employers to keep staff happy and improve retention.

The American Institute of Stress reports 94% of workers feel stress on the job and 63% are thinking of quitting.

“Workplaces are so stressful these days that incorporating practical practices and exercises like laughing yoga is something everybody can do. And it’s such a huge return of investment,” said Merlene Jose, care management manager at Shriners.

“There’s studies that show that our bodies can’t tell the difference between simulated laughter and real laughter. And if we just laugh for 10 to 15 minutes a day, in a sustained amount of time, we can reap all these health benefits,” Pascual said.

“I don’t want people to think that laughter yoga is just a practice to mask their feelings,” she added.

“It’s really about feeling all of our feelings whether it’s anger, sadness. ... But we also have tools like laughter that can help balance all of that.”

So when it comes to fighting workplace stress, laughter yoga may be just what the doctor ordered.

A dose that can help employees get the last laugh.