Laughter Yoga With Teenagers
Teen stress is an important health issue. We know that the early teen years are marked by rapid changes. They are faced with demands of college and parents to perform and achieve goals that may be unrealistic. Not meeting these goals often leads to anxiety that is detrimental to physical and mental health, in some cases even resulting in suicidal tendencies.
Teenagers laugh a lot with peers but when they interact with elders they close up and become very protective about conveying their emotions. They go into their shell and want to play it safe. They are afraid of feedbacks and are extremely awkward in their actions. Being on the threshold of adulthood, they are afraid of facing the challenges of growing up.
Major Teen Stressors
Puberty: The child changes physically and emotionally at the onset of puberty. Even the child’s attitude towards his or her parents is likely to change. Often, children think their parents are hopeless, annoying and old-fashioned. In return, parents may find their child cheeky and sullen. Obviously, it can be a time of conflict between parents and children. In fact, it may be more alarming to the parents if there are no conflicts at all, as it may be a sign that their child is hiding their problems, which can lead to suppressed feelings and emotions, in effect harming the mental psyche.
Extended hearty laughter induced by Laughter Yoga is extremely beneficial as it helps to release these pent up feelings and emotions from the sub-conscious mind through effective emotional catharsis.
Parental Inconsistency: During this transitional phase parents raise their expectations and become quite inconsistent in their behavior. They sometimes want their children to behave like kids and sometimes like adults. ‘Don’t do this, you’re a kid’; ‘You can do this, you’re big enough’. These instructions send confusing signals to children and they become self protective and draw back into their shell.
Laughter helps to dissipate thoughts of distrust and hostility arising out of continuous confrontations with parents. Laughter releases endorphins that kick starts good feelings and changes the mood state almost immediately.
Changing Relationships: Puberty is a time of life when the child begins to feel liberated. But support from parents is still of paramount importance. Parents are not only a safety net, but also the platform from which the child can eventually experience the whole world.
Laughter helps to boost the self-confidence and encourage a great network of healthy relationships. It encourages team building and eliminates feelings of aggression, jealousy and antagonism.
School Demands: As teens step into the threshold of adulthood, they experience a changed environment all around them. Their new found freedom also brings in new pressures of performance, competitiveness, and striving for excellence. All these lead to stress and tensions which at times can prove fatal.
Laughter has the ability to reduce stress symptoms and provide a feeling of wellness.
New Responsibilities: Teens learn about their role in the family and the importance of helping others. As they become older, they take on new responsibilities.
A hearty laughter helps to develop a sense of independence and self-reliance. It boosts self esteem and helps them to perform better in every sphere of life.
Several Laughter Yoga sessions among schoolchildren between the age group of five to 15 has confirmed that it’s much easier to make children laugh under the age of five. As they grow older they become more self-conscious and it is very hard for them to simulate laughter. They’re not really open to follow the commands to laugh without any reason.
Young children laugh from their heart but as they enter their teens they start using their mental faculty to rationalize their laughter and behavior. It’s a period of transition and changeover and the beginning of the inhibitory factors which play a major role in the expression of emotions. There is a shift from open behavior to closed and defensive reactions. There is a noticeable switch from body laughter to laughing from the mind.
Laughter Yoga is a physical exercise that works on the body and mind simultaneously. It boosts systems that are ‘switched off’ or disrupted by stress, especially the circulatory and digestive systems. It stimulates willingness to learn and retention improves creativity and self discipline. It provides tools to deal with stressful situations in new ways, providing an alternative to anger and aggression and resulting fear.
With these tremendous benefits, laughter is indeed the best medicine for both young and teenage children. In fact, in the educational context laughter boosting is used to prepare students for examinations, and also to prepare sports teams for optimal performance before competition.