The Best Medicine
Could that old saying be true? We wanted to know if laughter is actually good for you, and the answer, it seems, is yes!
“I learned first-hand that laughter truly is the best medicine,” says Darrin Zeer, a stress management expert, yoga instructor, author, and speaker who has been teaching laughter and yoga across America for more than two decades.
“Laughing on a regular basis reduces stress hormone levels and increases health-enhancing hormones like endorphins; it also improves heart health and stimulates your immune system. All of this results in relaxation, resistance to disease, improved mood and a positive outlook. Laughter helps you instantly de-stress and feel great.”
In fact, it may even protect you against a heart attack, according to researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and increase your pain threshold.
“I think it's healthy to expose your inner child and loosen up your need for control,” Zeer says.
The author of Office Yoga: Simple Stretches for Busy People, Zeer adds that laughter, combined with gentle yoga, is a “transformative practice”.
There’s even something called laughter yoga, which, if you’ve never heard of it, you’re going to want to try.
“Laughter yoga combines the deep breathing practice from yoga with unique laughter exercises to encourage healthy, hearty, sustained laughter in all participants,” says Rebecca Brown, a coach, speaker and laughter yoga teacher. “The goal in laughter yoga is to get in touch with our childlike playfulness and to promote a joyful spirit.”
Laughter yoga, Brown says, changes your mood within minutes, stimulates the right brain for improved innovation and creativity, and can improve communication. If you do decide to give it a try, here’s what Brown says you can expect:
“Using eye contact in a group setting, participants mingle about performing laughter exercises like ‘greeting laughter’, ‘bird laughter’ or ‘milkshake laughter’.” Sound silly to you? That’s exactly the point.
“Expect to check your ego at the door and allow yourself to be present, in the moment, free to laugh and be silly,” Brown says. “Oftentimes the laughter may feel fake at first, but your body is still receiving the same health benefits of authentic laughter - so fake it ’til you make it!”
Zeer explains: “Your body doesn't recognize the difference between real and fake laughter – endorphins are released either way. … The health benefits are well worth it even if you risk appearing like a fool.”
We have to agree. Besides, who doesn’t like a good hearty chuckle?
Darrin Zeer’s 5 Exercises to Get Your Laugh On
- Let-Go & LOL. Start laughing, gradually increasing the tempo and volume of your laughter. Create the space and give yourself permission to Laugh-Out-Loud.
- Contagious Laugh. Walk around and greet people with a big smile and welcoming laughter. Enjoy how contagious laughter is. Be childlike and silly.
- Belly Laugh. Place your hands on your belly and laugh heartily. Feel the abdominal workout, and enjoy the jiggle. Laugh your way to six-pack abs.
- Ha-Ha, Ho-Ho. Stretch your arms out and say, "Ha-Ha", gently bend forward and say "Ho-Ho." Repeat at least nine times. Start in slow motion then speed up. Take long, slow inhalations.
- Mimic Game. Imitate your favourite laughers. Santa Claus, Doctor Evil, Dracula. Try imitating yourself – remember not to take yourself too seriously!