Improve Health, Wellness and Happiness with Laughter
Jan 02, 2016 12:48PM
By Karen Siugzda
No matter where you look these days, it seems we’re all over-stressed, over-scheduled and over-stimulated, barely taking a moment to look up from our mobile devices to make eye contact with one another, let alone make an attempt at real connection. True personal connection is being replaced with electronic, social media “connection”, leaving many to feel depleted and disconnected. Additionally, our jam-packed schedules often lead us to taking life too seriously and not allowing time for play, thus robbing ourselves of precious feelings of joy.
Our quality of life depends on our quality of personal connection and a commitment to playfulness. I discovered this truth when I discovered Laughter Wellness, over three years ago. I had been in a car accident a few years prior and my body and spirit were still slowly healing. I was also feeling tremendous anxiety and depression due to a recent divorce. For several years, I was a walking ball of stress and it was taking its toll on my health and overall happiness. The Laughter Wellness class had such a positive effect on me that after only two classes I decided to become a certified instructor myself.
Laughter Wellness, also known as Laughter Yoga, is a whole body, well-being workout. It’s a simple form of exercise that uses playful activities to promote laughter and social connection, deep breathing exercises and light movement. It's also a mindfulness practice that helps build resilience to life so we can learn to respond not just react to situations. Participants don’t need to be flexible or funny; they can even participate from a chair.
Laughter is infectious. When shared, it binds people together, cultivating happiness and belonging. Laughter also has many health benefits. Research including recently in The New York Times and by the Mayo Clinic shows it strengthens immune system, boosts energy, decreases pain, relieves anxiety and depression, improves respiratory and cardiovascular function, and improves physical and mental health. Additionally, laughter involves deep diaphragmatic breathing, which is proven to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, creating a calm state of being and decreasing the effects of stress, as cited on LaughterOnLineUniversity.com. This deep breathing also acts as a pump for the lymphatic system, helping to protect the body from illness and disease.
The lighthearted interaction that occurs during a laughter session is simply wonderful. Participants engage in simple activities that create a safe space for openness and play. Often, the activities are enhanced with music, props or dance moves to heighten the fun. Eye contact is also encouraged to keep everyone in the present moment and to bolster personal connection. The class starts out with a room full of strangers, and by the end, a community of joyful laughers is created. Feedback is extremely positive. Here’s what some have said: “I feel energized and relaxed all at the same time.” “I was skeptical at first, but after only one class, I’m a believer!”
Additionally, uplifting and powerful affirmations are frequently interspersed throughout the class as a reminder that we are more amazing, supported and loveable than we tend to remember on a daily basis. These affirmations, along with the laughter, help shift our state of mind, encouraging a positive and optimistic view of life.
All the benefits of laughter and deep breathing are wonderful at any time; however, they’re particularly important around the holidays. The hustle and bustle of shopping, traveling and family gatherings can create additional stress on individuals and families. While it's often a joyous time for most, the holidays are emotionally very difficult for many, leading to increased feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety and isolation. Join us for a laughter class and experience the uplifting, energizing and healthy benefits for yourself; it’s family friendly! Laughter Wellness classes are held on the third Friday of every month at Yoga for Living, in Cherry Hill. Also, save the date for a two-hour Laughter Wellness Playshop on January 10.