You're having a laugh
According to Jayne Ebrey, laughter is the best medicine for stress. She believes a good chuckle for 20 minutes per day - even if it is fake - can give a natural high.
Ms Ebrey, who has been called the giggling guru, is the pupil of an Indian doctor who invented laughter yoga 11 years ago.
She now hopes to spread the benefits of Dr Madan Kataria's dose of daily laughter to teachers and schools in South Wales, two years after it arrived in the UK.
Last week she held her first class at Monmouth Comprehensive. But the session is not for the self-conscious. It is all about letting go of inhibitions. Teachers taking part now hope to pass on the technique to their pupils.
Based on traditional yoga, it aims to shut down the left side of the brain. One way to achieve this is to talk gibberish. During sessions, students are asked to clap and shout out "Ho, ha, hu, he".
The result, according to the 11 teachers and learning support assistants who practised baby talk during the class, was a feelgood factor. Ms Ebrey claims the process releases a cocktail of hormones and chemicals, including the body's natural painkiller, endorphins, leaving participants on a real high or totally relaxed.
Many of the teachers found it hard to stop laughing - and afterwards felt ready for their nightly chore of marking.
Research has shown that happy, healthy humans used to spend 20 minutes or more laughing. But experts say the daily quota in many countries is now at an all-time low of five minutes or less.
As we smile and laugh less, we become more prone to depression and stress. Lack of laughter can also weaken immune systems, making us more susceptible to illness. Laughter is also great exercise - one minute being the equivalent of 10 minutes on a rowing maching - and it is anti-ageing.
A lot of the focus of the session was seeing the funny side of depressing experiences. Opening a credit card bill may not be most people's idea of fun, but the class was taught to laugh instead of cry.
"This class did really well," said Ms Ebrey. "Teachers have to be great actors sometimes and are used to having audiences, so they were not that self-conscious. I have had some classes where it has taken a while to warm up."
Andy Williams, assistant head, said the emotional survival of both staff and pupils was high on the school's agenda for self-improvement. "This school is very aware of the need for emotional, as well as physical, wellbeing in our pupils, " he said.
"But the staff are our most valuable asset, and they need to be healthy and happy too," he said.
"Next month all our Year 10 pupils will have sessions, alongside shiatsu, to help them manage conflict and emotions."
- Contact Jayne Ebrey on 07960 649943. for details of her laughter yoga sessions
LAUGHTER CLASS PLAN
To laugh for no reason to improve wellbeing. Short history of laughter yoga, with health benefits and contraindications.
Three myths about laughter
1. You have to have a sense of humour to laugh.
2. You need to be happy to laugh.
3. You need a reason to laugh.
Three truths about laughter
1. You need willingness to laugh.
2. And ability to make eye contact.
3. And ability to fake laughter.
Play with laughter sounds - open up lungs; deepen breathing. Repeat.
Clapping - palm and fingers straight together, stimulating acupressure points for release of energy.
Clap in rhythm, 1, 2 and 1, 2, 3. Add laughter sounds, "ho ho, ha ha ha", while walking around.
Walk, smile, laugh softly, greet others, shake hands while laughing.
Swinging laugh; gibberish talking; humming.
Mindbody association talk - crying laugh; credit card laughter; argument; forgiveness.
Well-done clap and "Yaaay".
Laughter meditation - sit; diaphragmatic hoha breaths; quieten; lie down in a circle, heads pointing inwards; focus on breath and let laughter bubble up spontaneously.
Move into yoga relaxation.
End with brief discussion, noticing changes in body or mind.