Laughter, Medicine for the Heart
“Being happy is the best cure of all diseases.”
Did you know that there is a direct relationship between our physiology, our thoughts and our feelings? It is a scientific fact that the body cannot tell the difference between real and fake laughter. Meaning, we get the same benefits of laughter even when we fake it.
Are you willing to dare to be silly, have more fun and tap into your childlike playfulness? So many of us have been brought up to take life far too seriously and it seems the older we get, the more we get weighed down by stress and responsibilities. On average, children laugh 400 times a day. By the time we become adults, this figure has reduced to less than 15. The wonderful thing about laughter is that it breaks down barriers and helps us to connect with each other in a positive way.
And the fact that it is a universal language means we can all do it, regardless of age, ability or culture. Neurologist Sophie Scott of University College, London states "we are 30% more likely to laugh when we are around other people.
These are the key principles of Laughter Yoga, a practice that combines laughter exercises with deep diaphragmatic breathing. It is the brainchild of Indian physician, Dr. Madan Kataria. And based on the principles that we can fake laughter to make laughter, laugh for no reason and adopt a mindset of childlike playfulness
Not only does laughter relax the whole body, it is a powerful remedy to counter the negative effects of stress. Laughter is great for releasing pent up emotions such as anger, frustration, fear and anxiety and gives our mood a boost by releasing Endorphins. Endorphins are our body's natural pain killing chemicals, that give us a feeling of well- being and create a positive state of mind. Research shows that laughter also lowers levels of the stress hormone, Cortisol and stimulates the immune system, helping us fight disease and stay healthy.
When we are able to laugh at a situation and especially laugh at ourselves, it can help us to reframe how we feel about a situation. Meaning we can shift our perspective from negative to positive in an instant!
In 1969 Norman Cousins, an American journalist was keen to explore alternative remedies to treat the crippling pain he was recie, as a result of a degenerative condition affecting his joints. He took large doses of vitamin C and confined himself to a hotel room, where he watched endless funny movies for weeks on end. He discovered that after a hearty belly laugh he was able to have two pain free hours of sleep. He eventually recovered from his illness and went on to write about the power of laughter in his book ‘Anatomy of an Illness.” in which he states, “Laughter serves as a blocking agent. Like a bulletproof vest, it may help protect you against the ravages of negative emotions that can assault you in disease.”
Patch Adams, is a doctor, clown and social activist, made famous by the film of the same name starring Robin Williams. Patch Adams has dedicated his life to using humour as a therapeutic tool, alongside conventional medicine. He is passionate about promoting health and wellness through laughter. In 1971 Patch founded the Gesundheit! Institute - a clown (yes clown!) healthcare outreach programme, which every year sends a team of volunteers across the world, spreading joy and laughter into settings such as orphanages, schools, care homes, psychiatric facilities, refugee camps. war zones.
Regular doses of a good belly laugh will provide us with our very own prescription to bring more happiness and joy into our lives and all it takes is just 15 minutes a day of a good belly laugh to reap all these wonderful benefits.