Funny movies, sitcoms, cute toddlers, and a good friend’s jokes can all offer one of the most powerful, natural stress relievers: laughter. Plus it burns way more calories than a long face.
Now I hear there is a career path for people who can become certified laughter instructors! Now, doesn’t that sound like fun?
Lynda Tourloukis is a certified laughter teacher based in Park Ridge, IA. She says she became interested in the healing benefits of laughter after she and her husband spent a weekend chuckling and guffawing at a seminar offered by the Humor Project, an organization that focuses on “the positive power of humor.” Now she trains other laughter teachers and has become a personal laughter advocate.
Okey Dokey. I could do that. In fact, I’m pretty sure I minored in laughter at Ole Miss.
I read about an Australian school which recently spent $1200 teaching its teachers how to laugh. Other schools in the country are following suit and have paid for laughter ‘consultants’. Eighty-two staff members from another Australian school took part in a two-hour “laughter therapy” session last Monday. I’m guessing the Aussies aren’t a very cheerful lot.
The Benefits of Laughter
I’ve written often about the benefits of laughter and I’m fascinated by the physiology behind laughter. Whenever I spend time with my oldest and dearest friends from high school, we laugh the night away and I come home refreshed and ready to tackle any challenge. Here’s what experts know about the health benefits of laughter:
- Mental health benefits. Although you probably can’t laugh off depression, one of the many benefits of laughter and a sense of humor is that they buffer you against the negatives of life that could lead to depression. As an added bonus, studies show that people who use humor to fight stress also feel less lonely and more positive about themselves.
- Physical benefits. Although we can’t yet say that a certain number of laughs every day will keep the doctor away, studies show that people who say they laugh a lot also tend to be in good health and generally feel well. Laughter is also one of the most commonly used complementary therapies among cancer patients, who find that one of the benefits of laughter is an improved quality of life.
- Heart health benefits. Laughter could be healthy for your heart, too. Some research shows that when you laugh, there is an increase in oxygen-rich blood flow in your body, possibly due to the release of endorphins, which create a chemical rush that counters negative feelings and stress. Activities that increase endorphins include a good workout or listening to music you love, and laughter deserves its place on the list with these other stress busters.
Building Laughter Into Your Life
Loving the benefits of laughter but don’t feel like laughing? Sometimes you have to make a conscious effort to laugh. If you’re facing tough times such as a tight budget, work stress, or an illness like cancer, it may help to learn techniques to bring the benefits of laughter into your life. You can try the old stand-by recommendations:
- Rent a funny movie, read a funny book, or watch a funny sitcom.
- Spend time with an amusing buddy.
- Look on the light side: Go places that help you remember good times that have made you laugh in the past.
Or you can join the “laughter movement” to learn about the benefits of laughter while fighting stress: breathing techniques and exhalation creates a self-induced “laugh” that provides all the benefits of laughter rooted in humor. You can include this practice in your day by adding a little “ha ha ha” when you shake hands or introduce yourself — to fellow laughter fans, of course! Check out Laughter Yoga International for more informaton.
- Find a laughter group. “It’s always my recommendation to get together with other people to laugh. It’s a little hard to laugh alone, unless you have practiced it,” Tourloukis says. At Laughter Yoga International you can search over 6,000 social laughter clubs around the world to find one closest to you.
- Have a “woohoo!” Tourloukis hosts a free daily laughter call that is only 20 minutes long and ends with a laugh-inducing “woohoo!” But she says anytime you look at the clock, if it’s 20 minutes past the hour, your own “Woohoo!” will help bring a smile to your face.
Any day is a good day to start laughing more, but if you need a more significant date to get started with this goal, pencil it in for the first Sunday of May, World Laughter Day.
Now – here’s a laugh for the day: An elderly friend of mine – Edith Teasley – was attending a wedding reception recently. As she bent over to scoop up some potato salad, her left contact fell into the bowl. The mayhem that ensued was delicious. When I am feeling a little blue, I pull up one of these ha ha moments and relive it.