The Feel-Good Benefits of Laughter
By Vanessa Voltolina
Every April 1 is certainly a reason to engage in a good belly-chuckle, as we playfully “fool” one another to celebrate the annual holiday. But why should this single day have all the fun? A good laugh not only puts us in better moods, but provides a number of health benefits, too.
Laughter has been linked with quite a few medical benefits, and is an easy, free way to maintain good health. Those engaging in intentional laughter cite benefits including increased blood flow, pain reduction, amped up immune response, lower stress levels and blood sugar levels, and relaxation. “Research from around the world shows that laughing facilitates a reduction in cortisol, the main hormone associated with stress,” says Jody Ross, certified laughter yoga leader, teacher and coach. “It’s great when you need to make a quick decision, but we have so many stressful events in our lives that our bodies never have a chance to recover.”
Laughter yoga leader Ross, who holds a free laughter club every week in Minneapolis, Minnesota, works on intentional laughing with members (the “yoga” portion, she explained, is the deep breathing done during these sessions). Often, she says, members “just don’t laugh as much as they wish they did,” or are dealing with major life changes, illness, and more.
Stephanie Tang, founder of Sacred Sounds Yoga in New York City, understands the lack of laughter firsthand, and experienced it during an unhappy stint in her last career. This is one of the reasons why she opened her studio. “Yoga makes people feel better, as does laughter,” she says. “It’s so important that we find joy in what we do on a day-to-day basis [and] allow ourselves time to meditate and reflect on life.”
Laugh More: 3 Easy Ideas
Ok, so maybe you’re convinced that you need to laugh more—and 10 minutes a day seems to be the magic number for reaping the maximum healthy benefits, according to experts. But it’s understandable if the thought of it makes you feel uncomfortable or foolish. Take baby steps and consider these ideas for laughing it up:
1. Join a laughter yoga club! They’re free and offered throughout the country. Your apprehension will go out the window when you’re in a room laughing with others. (Did we mention it also works your ab muscles? A good chuckle can even burn some calories!)
2. Laugh with a friend. To ease you into the idea of laughing, find a friend and commit to laughing together for two minutes a day. It can be about something hilarious—or for no reason at all. Meet in the office break room with a coworker, or giggle with your best friend via phone or Skype.
3. Laugh at everything, even if it’s not funny. Make a promise to yourself to laugh at every stoplight you hit on your commute to work, or during your morning shower. “When we commit to laughing, it comes from within,” says Ross. “We can find humor in things we never found funny before, and things that we used to find funny are hilarious!”
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