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Laughing is Serious Business

“I know how to keep my man happy, and keep him, period: meatloaf and blowjobs.”

                          ~ Ayako M. as quoted in Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Chef.

Oh, I’m probably still laughing as you read this. Nothing like the juxtaposition of meatloaf and blowjobs to give you the giggles. After this good laugh, I feel light, happy, and satiated.

Turns out, we get a lot of great health benefits from laughing, including strengthening our immune system, which is super important, especially these days while we’re trying to stave off coronavirus.  

This idea that laughter is medicine has been scientifically proven. You may have heard of the 1979 best-selling book by Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness. In it, Cousins describes how he laughed himself well by watching old Marx Brothers movies and reading funny books. With every deep rooted belly laugh he rid himself of worry and disease and gave birth to healing energy.

In 1995, Madan Kataria, a cardiologist in India, took Cousins’s idea of health through laughter and began organizing laughter clubs for people who wanted to get together and laugh. It wasn’t long before the sick people in Dr. Kataria’s laughter clubs were feeling better and bringing others to join in the fun. Today, thanks to Dr. Kataria’s efforts, there are more than 6,000 laughter clubs in over 60 countries, and countless people experiencing wellness through laughter.

In addition to strengthening your immune system, laughter has a myriad of health benefits including:

  • Reducing stress and the stress hormones that cause weight gain
  • Anti-aging—laughter tones facial muscles and increases blood supply to the face
  • Aerobic benefits by stimulating blood circulation
  • Massaging your organs
  • Increasing endorphins (the feel-good hormones)
  • Reducing pain
  • Relieving depression and anxiety
  • Better sleep
  • Alleviating bronchitis and asthma

With all of these health benefits, we should be laughing on the regular. But with the current state of the world, not much is tickling our funny bones. So how do we start laughing more? How do we make laughter a part of each day? How do we turn laughter into a practice?

Lucky for us there are many ways to get the giggles, including one of my favorites­––laughter yoga.

Laughter yoga is the true practice of silliness, where you engage in different exercises to make yourself laugh. It’s also where the old idiom rings true, “you can fake it ’til you make it.” You see, the human body doesn’t know the difference between fake laughter and real laughter. You get all the same health benefits by faking it. (The same cannot be said for faking other things.)

You can do these exercises alone or for even more fun, ask others to join you. But rest assured, you don’t have to be funny to do laughter yoga. There are only two requirements for any practice: make eye contact with others and laugh. Eye contact is important because laughter is contagious and when you connect with someone laughing, you, too, will get the bug. 

The key is to play and be playful. The traditional practice of laughter yoga includes several exercises, including a warmup of walking in a circle and chanting, “Ha ha ho ho ho. Ha ha ho ho ho.” You repeat this about ten times until you feel your energy get bigger.

Another exercise is to pretend you’re driving a car, run into each other, and laugh. It’s like human bumper cars. This exercise is to encourage you to laugh, not fret, during stressful situations like traffic jams.

It’s also fun to pretend you’re talking on your cell phones and that someone just told you the funniest thing you’ve ever heard. Again, the child-like, playful nature of these laughter yoga exercises is what induces the levity and laughter.

My favorite of all the laughter yoga exercises is to take turns pretending you’re on stage while others gave you a standing ovation. They’ll clap; they’ll jump up and down; they’ll whistle. I’d never received a standing ovation before my friends gave me a one during laughter yoga. In addition to making me laugh, it made me tear up a bit. It was then that I realized that everyone needs a standing ovation. So, I’ve adopted the standing ovation exercise in my house. Now everyone gets one, even the dogs.

You can also practice laughter yoga while you’re alone in the car. Try to laugh for 10 minutes straight. If you need to, start off with fake laughter and before you know it, you’ll be rolling into real laughter. You may end with fake laughter and that’s A-OK. Again, fake laughter is as good as the real thing, and 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there adds up to a lot of laughter in a day. Have you ever laughed for 10 minutes straight? I have and can tell you that by the end of it, my abs hurt, my cheeks were sore, my face was flushed, and I was sweating. I felt lighter and happier.

Another great way to get laughing is to watch the old slapstick movies and television shows. I’m an old school kind of girl so I love Three’s Company, Lucille Ball, and The Carol Burnett Show, but I bet you have your own oldies that can get you giggling. 

Maybe laughter really is the best medicine. Maybe it’s our soul’s voice reminding us that we’re here to have fun and not take things too seriously. What else could we ever truly want than to be happy and healthy? Laughter gives you both. So make sure you laugh today. Whether it’s real or fake, it still does your body good.

If you need something to get you going, watch this short clip with Carol Burnett talking about her addiction to soap operas. She’s another one of my all-time favorites for the funny bone. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make some meatloaf. 

With resilience, grace, and love,

KK