Belly laughs for health and safety

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Laughter yoga at Scarborough plant safety meeting

by Jerry Traer  CRSP, Program and Training Specialist

Four workers practice laughter yoga at safety meetingHave you ever walked into a safety meeting and seen people laughing hysterically? If you have, you might think these people have lost their minds, but at Caraustar Industrial in Scarborough, Ontario, this is the morning ritual. Caraustar Industrial produces spiral paper tubes for the paper industry, as well as cores for the sewing industry and other types of spiral cores used throughout the manufacturing sector.

It started several years back when an employee – now retired – who was also a yoga instructor suggested the idea of the three laughs to Tony Beaton, plant manager. Credit Tony for carrying through with the suggestion at the morning crew safety meeting.

Every morning before each shift, the plant has a fifteen-minute safety talk. Discussions are about concerns at the plant, issues at sister plants, or any other relevant information received from various safety sources, including their health and safety association Workplace Safety North. Once the talk is complete, they move on to a short stretching exercise, and finish up with three laughs: one silent laugh, one regular laugh, and one loud belly laugh.

At this point, you might be thinking this is silly, but research on the whole idea of laughing shows significant positive outcomes. According to Peter Davison’s Laughter Yoga Activities Guide for Health and Healing, there are a variety of physical benefits: 

  • Feel-good hormones. Laughing leads to the release of endorphins and to stimulate feelings of caring and forgiveness in addition to acting as a natural painkiller. Endorphins create a positive state of mind and boost optimism, self-confidence and feelings of self-worth.

  • Blood and all major organs are fully oxygenated leaving us bursting with energy. Research shows that laughing increases circulation and helps flush the organs of waste products, helping us to operate at peak performance.

  • Strengthens the immune system. Laughter deepens the breath, which is shown to increase lymphatic flow, which in turn is already thoroughly documented and proven to boost the immune system. Laughter also increases the levels of immunoglobulin, the first line of defense protecting us against viral infections such as coughs and colds. 

  • Promotes cardio-vascular health. Blood pressure drops and pulse rate drops after a big laugh, depression is lifted, even chronic depression is often improved.

So, the next time you walk in on a safety meeting and see a whole bunch of people laughing hysterically, join in, not only will it be fun, but it will be great for you and your health.

Jerry Traer is a Canadian Registered Safety Professional, and Program and Training Specialist with Workplace Safety North. He holds a certificate in Pulp and Paper Technology from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. With extensive training from the Workers Health and Safety Centre, training in process hazard analysis and risk assessment, Jerry makes numerous presentations at safety conferences across Canada, and sits on two Canadian Standards Association technical committees. He works closely with Toronto East and Eastern Ontario firms in pulp, paper, corrugated, and other related industries. You can reach Jerry at jerrytraer@workplacesafetynorth.ca.

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Free workplace health and safety resources including MSD Prevention Guidelines for Ontario, Physical Demands Analysis, posters, safety talks, statistics, and more.

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