The restorative power of laughter

People sitting in a circle with arms in the air
How to overcome fear with a special form of yoga.


We are living in ‘interesting times’. In this climate, laughter yoga has many potentially helpful practices, and laughing at one’s fears is one of them.

In order to laugh at one’s fears, it helps to practise laughing for the sake of it, and/or as a yoga. This makes it a progressively easier practice.

This extract was first published in Resurgence & Ecologist magazine. 

In this yogic way, you laugh intentionally in the same way as you breathe intentionally. You focus on the activity for its own sake, for the benefits that accrue from the act of laughter itself. Laughing at one’s fears also happens to be part of several trauma-release therapies, so there are many excellent reasons for developing this ability. 

Personal liberation

Happily, not only is it an enjoyable and effective practice: it also gets easier.

Paulo Coelho makes a typically insightful comment on fear and laughter in his book The Witch of Portobello: “Don’t be like those people who believe in ‘positive thinking’ and tell themselves that they’re loved and strong and capable. You don’t need to do that, because you know it already. And when you doubt it – which happens, I think, quite often at this stage of evolution – do as I suggested.

"Instead of trying to prove that you’re better than you think, just laugh. Laugh at your worries and insecurities. View your anxieties with humour. It will be difficult at first, but you’ll gradually get used to it.” 

As Coelho says, this is a difficult practice at first. However, laughing at your worries, insecurities, anxieties and fears is a route back to sanity and inner calm.

It is a path to psychological freedom, emotional intelligence, professional effectiveness, and personal liberation. It helps you be more mindful and become more resilient. 

Pain and trauma

Out now!
Out now!

In laughter yoga you learn to laugh for the sake of laughing. You learn to laugh for the psychological, emotional, physical, whole-person benefits. With practice this becomes an effective technique for dealing with pressure and regaining your equilibrium. 

When you learn this practice and learn to overcome your fears, miracles happen. One retreat delegate said: “At the weekend I only touched on the pain and trauma I have been through in the last six years. Over that time I had completely forgotten how to laugh, lost my confidence and self-esteem along with trust in others – all the negatives.

"I think I had reached rock bottom – anti-depressants from the doctor, high blood pressure, IBS, all, I believe, caused by my ego dwelling on the past and going over things like a long-playing record. Thankfully a visit to the doctor made me realise I had to begin to take control.

"I needed to laugh and find the fun in my life and also live in the NOW, not the past. I read and researched… and wondered whether there were any clubs that actually taught you how to laugh…

"Obviously I realise it is early days, but I am sure with my inner strength and determination I will succeed. In fact my doctor, whom I saw today, has agreed to gently phase me off medication.” 

Her story is one of many.

So, when life seems a bit frightening – laugh at your fears.

This Article

This is an edited extract from Joe Hoare’s book Laughter Yoga and Happiness: 7 Insights from 15 Years of Laughter Yoga. It has been published by Resurgence & Ecologist magazine. Image courtesy of Hoare's website.