The idea that laughter is really good medicine is so innate that it has been documented since biblical times. ‘‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones,’’ as the proverb 17:22 goes.
But you’re not always surrounded by lol-worthy moments so how can you get a dose of laughter, other than scrolling through cat videos? That’s where laughter yoga comes in.
“Laughter yoga is a process that enables you to laugh, regardless of how you are feeling, without the use of jokes, comedy or humour,” explains laughter yoga practitioner, Connie Costa. “Like regular yoga, laughter yoga is a body-mind practice that reduces stress and makes you feel calmer and more relaxed. It is highly interactive and is called laughter yoga because it combines interactive laughter exercises and rhythmic clapping with deep breathing techniques from yoga.”
But what exactly is it?
“In a laughter yoga workshop or presentation, you will learn about the benefits of laughter for health and wellbeing. You will tap into your ability to laugh on purpose, in order to reap the benefits of laughter,” Connie tells Collective Hub. “Research shows that the link between the mind and body is actually a two-way link that also works from body to mind. When you feel happy, you may smile and laugh but smiling and laughing also makes you feel happier. This helps to create real feelings of joy. You will also learn that laughter is contagious and in an interactive laughter yoga session, you will experience how contagious laughter can be, and how good it feels, for yourself.”
There are benefits beyond the general feel good factor – laughter actually enhances holistic wellbeing. Here are 4 reasons why a good laugh should tickle your fancy.
No surprises here: laughter releases ‘feel good’ hormones, including endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, into your bloodstream, making you feel uplifted and more positive. Endorphins are also your body’s natural painkillers, so laughter is said to increase pain tolerance.
Reduces stress and anxiety
Many people experience stress on the daily. When you stress out, your body’s ‘stress response’ becomes activated and prepares you for fight or flight. Being in this state is meant to be physiologically helpful: it can help you to deal with an emergency or perform well under pressure. We all know when ‘the stress response’ isn’t at all useful, it’s just, well, stressful. Like when you’re late for an important meeting or feeling completely snowed under at work. The best way to calm down is to activate your ‘relaxation response’ and the way to do that is to make sure your exhalation is longer than your inhalation, which signals to your brain that everything is okay and your body will follow. Laughing is the perfect antidote to stress: you’ll naturally exhale for longer and your body will feel less stressed as a result.
When you have a good, healthy laugh, your lungs are filled with air and residual air that sits around in the bottom of your lungs is expelled. Most of us are in a habit of shallow breathing and laughing counters this by oxygenating the cells of your brain and body and increasing energy levels.
Strengthens your immune system
You diaphragm, which is utilised through laughter, is linked to you lymphatic system – an important part of your immune system. When you laugh, the rate at which toxins are removed from your body increases and immune cells are produced, protecting your body from illness.
Connie is a Laughter Yoga Teacher and Trainer, Laughter Wellness Teacher and the Founder of Laugh and Live Well. She teaches regular laughter yoga classes at Work-Shop Sydney.