At the end of a week that saw World Smile Day and me qualifying to be a Laughter Yoga Leader, I thought I’d celebrate grins and giggles with these 5 astounding benefits of laughter. And I’m not even joking.
- It clears the cr*p out of your system
The exercises in Laughter Yoga cause you to laugh heartily, which means that you are breathing more deeply. More specifically, you are breathing out more than you would normally and in doing so are releasing the build up of stale air in your system.
Laughing is the quickest and easiest way of exhaling for longer and flushing our lungs. As someone who experiences asthma from time to time, I found this to be an incredible benefit; after day one of my Leader training my chest was completely clear after a particularly wheezy bout.
- It helps you experience joy and calm
We’ve all been there right, when you have laughed until it hurt and even then you still can’t stop? When you do eventually stop don’t you find that you feel relaxed, loosened up and generally chirpier? And who wouldn’t want to feel like that more of the time?
If we only use our chest for breathing then it becomes shallow, eventually leading to pent up carbon dioxide which will stimulate our stress arousal system. The deep, yogic breathing brought about by concentrated laughter stimulates the diaphragm which in turn activates the parasympathetic system, which is the calming branch of our nervous system.
- It gives you a work out
Back to that mirthful laughter until it hurt scenario. It hurts because not only are you using your diaphragm properly but you are giving your abdominal muscles a good workout too.
Additionally, Dr. Wiliam F. Fry, a psychiatrist at Stanford University in the 60s, confirmed that 20 seconds of laughter could double the heart rate for three to five minutes. He also claimed that he would need to put 10 minutes in on the rowing machine to reach the same heart rate achieved through one minute of laughter. Even if the laughter is fake!
- It can change your emotions
Psychologist William James found that any state of mind has a corresponding behaviour in the body. What’s more, he discovered that taking on an emotional state or behaviour in the body triggered the same emotion in the mind.
Why not try it? The next time something that would normally annoy or frustrate you happens, like middle lane drivers or people being late, have a good old belly laugh for a minute or two. Even if it’s fake it will have the same effect on your emotions and stop unnecessary cortisol building up in your system.
- It connects you with other people
There are fewer feelings better than having a good giggle with friends and family; it definitely brings you closer together. Have you also noticed this happens between children at a very young age? They can laugh long and loud, and form a bond, even without the use of words.
The revelation for me in Laughter Yoga is that the laughter is not reliant on comedy or having a sense of humour. Anyone can laugh through the encouragement of childlike playfulness, lowering our inhibitions and creating a union between ‘laughers’; a connection that transcends the spoken word, different opinions and cultures.
Overall, what is brilliant about this is that the body cannot tell the difference between real and fake laughter, which makes Laughter Yoga the only technique to allow adults to achieve sustained hearty laughter without having to use cognitive thought. In fact, it completely bypasses our intellectual system that normally stops us from experiencing natural laughter. Just brilliant!
If you want to experience this for yourself, come along to my opening Laughter Club – 09:30 Saturday 29th October, 2016 at Greyfriars Community Centre in Ringwood, Hants. Contact me before 23rd October, 2016 on firstname.lastname@example.org for more details and to secure your place.