Laughter is the Best Medicine

A unique approach to therapy and self-care

Most of us have heard the adage “laughter is the best medicine,” but how many of us have taken that advice to heart?  As behavior health professionals much of our time is spent working with people, solving problems and addressing the issues of others.  While many professions allow people to leave the pressures of work at the office, for most in our field the stresses come home.  Today we present the first installment in the self-care series.  The series offers simple reminders to keep ourselves healthy and strong as we continue fighting the good fight in our everyday life.

The term self-care describes some actions an individual can take to help improve their physical and mental health.  According to Goodtherapy.org, meditation and journaling are some examples of self-care activities.  However, there are numerous other activities one can do that are easy, affordable, and can make a real impact in one’s life. One such alternative idea is using the power of laughing to improve one’s mood and, in turn, one’s life.

Sebastian Gendry, a self-proclaimed laughterpreneur and a huge proponent of laughter therapy, sees the value of laughter to improve well-being.  He is the creator of the Laughter Wellness Method which “incorporates a range of strategies and techniques to help create and sustain positive energies to benefit the body, mind and spirit.” His TEDx talk provides some great examples of how laughter therapy works and a few ways to bring it into your own life.

Why Laugh?

Laughing seems easy enough- why would you need someone to show you how?  The easiest answer is that we don’t need to be taught how to laugh, often we just need a simple reminder.  Most professionals in the behavioral health field know how to work with others on their problems, yet sometimes get so busy that we run out of time or simply forget to focus on ourselves.  We may not laugh as much as we see children laughing, but the times we do laugh, we often feel better.  Science confirms that our gut feeling is correct.  Research in both the US and India proved the laughter significantly lowers both blood pressure and cortisol or stress levels. There is also evidence that the brain does not differentiate between fake laughter and real laughter.  Thus, a person gains the benefits of laughter whether it is a genuine laugh or not. Like yawns, laughter seems to be contagious, and a good guffaw may soon follow.

 

Laughter Yoga

Dr. Kataria founded laughter yoga in 1995 in Banglore, India, as a body-mind approach to wellness. More information on how it works can be found at his online Laughter Yoga University.  Laughter yoga is a small part of the larger laughter therapy field.  Here are five of the benefits of laughter yoga adapted from his site.

  • Better Mood: Laughter Yoga can has the ability to alter ones mood within minutes by releasing endorphins.  This endorphin release will allow a person to remain happier throughout the day.
  • A Fun Exercise: Laughing brings more oxygen to the body and brain similar to cardiovascular exercise. The added oxygen helps make one feel more energetic.
  • Health Benefits: Laughter Yoga helps reduces stress and strengthen the immune system. A healthy immune system makes the body less prone to sickness and help with faster recover  if you do become sick.
  • Quality of Life: Laughter is a positive energy that improves relationships and helps people connect with others. Laughter often attracts new friends.
  • Positive Attitude during the Challenging Times: Laughing is easy when life is good, but this ease is tested when confronted with challenges. Laughter helps create a positive mental state to better deal with negative situations and negative people. Laughter can provide hope and optimism to cope with difficult times.

Get Laughing

With your body being the only tool, laughter can be a great easy way to care for yourself, especially during the challenging moments of life.  Below are three easy examples of laughter yoga. These activities can be done alone but are also incredibly fun in a group.  Dr. Kataria’s advice is to try and keep eye contact with one another, step outside your comfort zone, and give it a hearty go.

  • A first technique Dr. Kataria recommends is called conditional laughter which suggests that you laugh every time you do some every day activity like opening the fridge or turning on a certain light in your house. This is a great way to turn something mundane- fun.
  • Another easy technique would be the escalating laugh. For those of you have watched Austin Powers you may recall when Dr. Evil begins a laugh as a small chuckle that slowly intensifies until his entire evil team starts laughing. See the video here for an example.
  • A third example is called engine laughter. To do this change the rum-rum sound of an engine into a ha-ha sound.  Turn the key a few times and once it finally starts laugh fully as you drive around.

Laughter therapy is an easy tool to help remind oneself to enjoy life.  Laughter truly is a great medicine and who knows, it could even be a new technique to try with clients or bring into your office. You may receive some strange looks, but you can pretend you are in the know of a hilarious inside joke.  Getting started is easy; just think about a funny moment in your life and start laughing.

Infographic courtesy of “https://laughactive.com/”

 

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