(6 minute read)
Do you have much to laugh about these days?
I don’t know if you have heard, but a pandemic has created a global economic and health crisis, and as of writing it has been almost one year since the first national lockdown in the UK. Happy Anniversary!
Yet, it doesn’t seem like a laughing matter.
But it should be.
Laughing increases positive emotions (Bachorowski & Owren, 2001), immune system function (Mahony et al, 2002), improves pain tolerance, social bonding, releases endorphins that make you feel good, and reduces stress and negative emotions (Dunbar et al., 2012).
So it appears laughter is great for psychological and physical health and can help us cope during difficult times (Tugade et al., 2004).
As this third lockdown was beginning to test even my eternal optimism and the British Winter felt even longer than usual, I decided to do something to boost my flagging positivity.
Your life doesn’t get better by chance, it gets better by change
~ Jim Rohn
So, on the recommendation of a lovely friend, I tried Laughter Yoga.
Created by Dr Kataria in India in 1995, Laughter Yoga involves clapping and laughter exercises, deep breathing, and cultivating childlike playfulness to improve mood and feelings of happiness. It helps release stress, encourages mindfulness, helps you take life less seriously, and thus cope better with life’s stressors (Hatchard & Worth, 2021). What is not to love?!
Although natural duchenne laughter and forced laughter may use different neural pathways, the body cannot tell the difference between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ laughter elicited in Laughter Yoga, which can be just as contagious. Even if you start off with a fake laugh, it can soon become spontaneous and genuine.
What is great about Laughter Yoga is that as long as you have a mouth, you can join in. You don’t need to have attained a certain level of fitness or flexibility, but it is still an excellent aerobic workout. How is that for inclusive?!
If life doesn’t make you laugh, you can still learn to laugh through life. I am now so curious about this global exercise movement that I have made it the focus of my dissertation.
So, what can you choose to laugh about today?
Onwards and LOLwards to greater health and wellbeing xXx
Bachorowski, J,, & Owren, M. J. (2001). Not all laughs are alike: Voiced but not unvoiced laughter readily elicits positive affect. Psychological Science. 12, 252–257.
Dunbar, R. I., Baron, R., Frangou, A., Pearce, E., Van Leeuwen, E. J., Stow, J., … & Van Vugt, M. (2012). Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 279(1731), 1161-1167.
Hatchard, A., & Worth, P. (2021). No laughing matter: Qualitative study of the impact of laughter yoga suggests stress inoculation. European Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 5(2), 1-11.
Mahoney, D. L., Burroughs, W. J, & Lippman, L. G. (2002). Perceived attributes of health-promoting laughter: A cross-generational comparison. Journal of Psychology. 136, 171–181.
Tugade, M. M., Fredrickson, B. L., & Barrett, L. F. (2004). Psychological resilience and positive emotional granularity: examining the benefits of positive emotions on coping and health. Journal of personality, 72(6), 1161–1190.