We’ve all heard the old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine”. Turns out, it isn’t just an old-wives’-tale. Scientist have found that laughter has the exact opposite effect on the body and mind as stress! When you laugh you:
- Lower your blood pressure by 6% (laughing relieves physical tension, so your muscles relax for up to 45 minutes after)
- Strengthen your immune system (laughter increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies)
- Protect your heart (blood vessel function is improved and blood flow is increased)
- Elevate your mood (your body releases endorphins, the “feel-good” chemical, reducing stress by 28%)
- Strengthen relationships, improve teamwork, reduce conflict and promote bonding
This is the premise behind Laughter Yoga, a complete well-being workout developed by medical doctor Madan Kataria. What starts out as forced or fake laughter soon evolves into full body laughs, tears streaming, sore smile muscles, and a great exercise for your core! The beauty of Laughter Yoga is that your body can’t differentiate between real laughter and fake laughter, so it’s all good!
Want to start your own laughter “exercise” program. Start with a game of “Pass A Laugh”. This simple game is guaranteed to get silly and warm up your laughter muscles. As you can watch in the video below, you sit in a circle and one child does a silly laugh “passing” it to the person sitting next to them. That 2nd person then repeats the laugh back to the 1st child and then he/she passes a different laugh to his/her neighbor. Continue until everyone has had a chance to create a laugh and repeat a laugh.
After that warm-up, try a Laughing Meditation practice. Everyone is on the floor, stretched out and comfy. Tell your family, “On the count of 3, I want you to make your loudest, longest laugh (or witch cackle, or belly laughs like Santa, etc.)”. Then, everyone participates in the crazy laughing for about a minute. When you give the sign (maybe by saying , “Ommmm”), everyone stops, is silent, and notices what they feel throughout their bodies and minds for several breaths. Share your observations.
Make laughing a regular event at home with Joke Night. One night a week (Fridays are good because everyone can use some relaxation after a week of work and school), set aside time after dinner for each person to tell a joke. It doesn’t take much time, but it is so valuable, and fun! Need new jokes? Check the library or online at www.azkidsnet.com or www.jokesbykids.com. It’s also a nice family activity to keep a journal of your family’s jokes. It’s a beautiful reminder of these Joke Nights, and smaller children can practice their reading skills by looking through the book. Besides the benefits of laughing, memorizing, speaking aloud, taking turns, and polite listening are all wonderful skills to encourage and strengthen.
As I learned to sing in Girl Scouts (with a small modification), “I’ve got something in my pocket. It belongs across my face. I keep it very close to me in a most convenient place. I’m sure you couldn’t guess it, if you guessed a long, long while. So I’ll take it out and put it on. It’s a great big Yogi smile!”