Wellness Wednesday: Laughter

It seems that almost every day, someone is trying to come up with the next ‘big thing’ that will for sure keep us healthy! While yes, getting sleep, exercising, staying hydrated and eating healthy are all important, studies have shown that something a bit more unexpected has also been found to help- laughter.

A good laugh has been found to improve blood flow, lower levels of stress hormone and even boost your immune system. When we laugh, we trigger the release of endorphins, which help to ease pain and promote a feeling of euphoria. Not only that, but a good laugh has the ability to relieve tension in the body “leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.”

Did you know that there is such thing as “Laughter Yoga?” Yes. That’s correct. In the 1990’s, Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India, started the first Laughter Club, which has expanded to over 6000 laughter clubs in over 60 countries. This form of yoga combines laughter with yogic breathing (pranayama) in order to provide the psychological and physiological benefits that come from laughing. Laughter yoga has been used in cancer facilities, prisons, aged care facilities, and has even been found to make a large impact on those with mental and physical disabilities.

Barb Fisher, a certified laughter-yoga leader, says that while laughter yoga shouldn’t replace traditional forms of exercise, it has been proven to help tone muscles. You know that sore feeling you get in your abs when you have been laughing uncontrollably? You really are strengthening your core! Apparently, 20 seconds of a good, hard belly laugh is equivalent to 2 minutes on the rowing machine.

Sadly enough, Fisher also says, that “Kids laugh about 400 times a day, and adults only about 15.” So, resort to your childlike self and don’t take everything so seriously! Laugh at yourself; don’t be afraid to be embarrassed. Try and look for humor in unfortunate situations. Surround yourself with funny people, posters, or objects that you keep at your work place. Most importantly, keep everything in perspective.

Here are some types of laughter that Dr. Madan Katari suggests to try out:

1. Hearty Laughter: Laughter by raising both arms in the sky with the head tilted a little backwards

2. Greeting Laughter: Joining both the hands and shaking hands with at least four or five people in the group

3. Appreciation Laughter: Join your pointing finger with the thumb to make a small circle while making gestures as if you are appreciating your group members and laughing simultaneously.

4. Milkshake Laughter: Hold and mix two imaginary glasses of milk or coffee and pour the milk from one glass into the other by chanting “Aeee…,” and then pour it back into the first glass by chanting “Aeee…” Then, everyone laughs while making a gesture as if they are drinking milk.

http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/laughter-wellness.htm

http://laughteryoga.org/

http://www.helpguide.org/life/humor_laughter_health.htm

 

Written by Kerry Townsend ’13.