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USU students learn laughter yoga to cope with stress

A group of students participating in a laughter yoga exercise, sitting in a circle on the USU Quad
Anna Johnson
Matthew Wappett leads students in laughter yoga

Finals season is in full swing at USU and students are looking for every opportunity to unwind a little. Every Wednesday, Matthew Wappett provides one in his Laughter Yoga sessions.

“When we hear people laughing we smile, we relax. We respond in kind. We use fake laughter and fake laughter turns to real laughter. Showing up and laughing teaches us that in spite of the stresses and pressures and everything else that we have going on in our lives, we can be joyful,” Wappett said.

Wappett calls himself a natural skeptic. He says laughter isn’t just a silly activity. There’s science behind the practices he teaches his students.

“Laughter does a lot of really interesting things in the body that are very helpful to students, it releases serotonin and dopamine which wakes your brain up and makes you feel more positive and more hopeful,” Wappett said.

You don’t need to be flexible or athletic for laughter yoga, you just need to be vulnerable.

“It does require you to set aside your ego and set aside this whole facade that we put on every day to be cool, you got to put all of that aside and say, ‘I'm willing to just be authentic and to be me to do it.’ The students that do that benefit tremendously,” Wappett said.

Laughter is a social exercise but Wappett says there is one way to practice laughter yoga alone.

“What we have to do is figure out some way to make laughing alone socially acceptable. So you don’t need another person to do that. You just need your phone. Take your phone, put it up to your ear and laugh,” Wappett said.

Laughter yoga sessions are held every Wednesday afternoon through the end of the semester and Wappett hopes that every student will take advantage of the chance to slow down and just laugh.

Anna grew up begging her mom to play music instead of public radio over the car stereo on the way to school. Now, she loves radio and the power of storytelling through sound. While she is happy to report on anything from dance concerts to laughter practice, her main focus at UPR is political reporting. She is studying Journalism and Political Science at Utah State University and wants to work in political communication after she graduates. In her free time, she spends time with her rescue dog Quigley and enjoys rock climbing.