I was at a park the other day, and heard the joyous sound of children laughing. Children laugh so easily, don’t they? Even though living through extremely tough situations can be silly and laugh spontaneously when given a chance to play.
Why is it that adults laugh so much less?
I know that adults have far more responsibility and stress, and for some reason society expects that adults will just be more serious all the time. But laughter is such a great way to relieve tension and let go of excess stress. And that’s a huge benefit to your health!
It’s time we all made a commitment to be more child-like and laugh more often.
Have you heard of Dr. Madan Kataria? He’s a physician who authored the book Laugh for No Reason. He asserts that even fake laughter can provide the same health benefits. Kataria is the leader of the Laughter Yoga movement, promoting laughter as a solution for all of your ills.
Followers of this movement join Kataria in the belief that laughter is possible every minute of every day, and once someone begins laughing (real or not) others will follow. Laughter, much like yawning, is contagious!
Laughter yoga clubs all over the world give people a chance to test this out. And here’s the key – there doesn’t have to be anything funny happening to be able to laugh. Fake laughter can lead to the real deal.
So what are these health benefits I’m talking about? According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter offers both short and long term benefits, including:
- Stimulating your organs by increasing oxygen intake
- Balancing your stress response and stress hormones
- Promoting muscle relaxation
- Stimulating circulation and improving blood pressure
- Improve immune system function
- Relieve pain
- Help you connect with others and develop coping strategies
- Relieve depression and anxiety
After watching those children playing in the park, I made a commitment to laugh more. I encourage you to do the same! If you don’t know how to get started, try these tips:
- Consciously seek out humor. Hang photos, cards or comics that make you giggle where you can see them often. Watch a funny video, pick up a joke book, or go to a comedy club. If you haven’t seen The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon yet, check it out – it’s a hilarious show about a woman in the 50s breaking social norms to become a stand-up comic.
- Practice laughing. If you have to start with a forced “ha, ha, ha” do it. You’ll be surprised at how quickly that turns to real laughter. Give yoga laughter a try if you can’t do this on your own.
- Spend time with those who make you laugh. We all have at least one friend who hasn’t lost their spirit of silliness. Make it a point to seek those people out often – especially when you’re feeling down.
I know that it can be so hard when you’re juggling so many responsibilities to just stop and take the time to have a good laugh. But can you remember a time when you simply couldn’t help yourself? And how good it felt afterwards?
In a 2010 article in The New Yorker, Kataria said, “Laughter is a choice … A connector of people. No barriers. No language.” This is so true – and so important!
Give yourself permission to let go and find your inner child today – and every day!
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD