General News Therapies — 20 November 2012

A good chuckle has many health benefits, so why aren’t we doing more of it.When was the last time you had a good laugh?

If it’s that long ago you can’t remember, there’s every chance it’s not just your sense of humour that’s not as healthy as it could be.

A new study from Deakin University shows your mental health could also be suffering.

Deakin researchers examined the psychological impact of Laughter Yoga on more than 400 corporate workers and found significant improvements in wellbeing in just one month. Their mood, self-esteem, optimism, sense of control and workplace wellbeing all increased by up to 10 per cent, while stress, anxiety and depression all went down by up to 10 per cent.

“The major finding was you’re going to feel better about yourself and you’re going to work better,” says Laughter Yoga Australia chief executive Merv Neal, who ran the laughter classes for the study.

“And at the same time your stress levels, anxiety levels and depression levels are going to decrease. “It worked in tandem, which was really wonderful.”

It is the latest research to show the health benefits of laughter. Laughter has previously been found to relieve pain, increase happiness, boost immunity and lower the risk of some diseases, combat tension, and strengthen relationships when it is shared.

Researchers at the University of Southern California are also investigating whether Laughter Yoga can help ease chronic migraine and headaches.

“Laughter is directly related to our health,” says Laughter Works Australia founder Bronwen Williams, who runs laughter workshops for workplaces.

“It’s the body’s natural way of getting rid of stress and anxiety. So if we don’t laugh enough it does affect our immune system and we’re more open to illness.

“It also has a symptom relieving effect. It’s very powerful and it’s fun.”

Laughter Yoga was founded in India by Dr Madan Kataria in 1995. Today, it is used therapeutically in schools, hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, community groups and businesses.

Neal says laughter exercises are combined with yoga breathing techniques in 30-minute classes which operate each week in Victoria’s 37 laughter clubs.

He believes people have forgotten how to laugh, with technology and the media constantly delivering bad, sad and depressing news and raising our stress levels.

How Laughter Works
  Relaxes the whole body by relieving physical tension and stress
  Decreases stress hormones in the body and increases immune cells and infection-
fighting antibodies, improving resistance to disease
  Triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals
  Improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow
  Provides a gentle aerobic workout. One minute of laughter is the equivalent of 10 minutes on a rowing machine, according to a US study

15 ways to get more laughter in your life
  Watch a funny movie or television show
  Go to a comedy show
  Catch up with good friends
  Seek out funny people
  Share a joke or comical story
  Try to see the funny side of life
  Fake it until you make it if you have to. The body can’t tell the difference between real and put on laughter, so you’ll still get all the benefits
  Take laughter yoga classes
  Spend time with kids. They know how to have fun and laugh
  Play with a pet
  Make time for fun activities such as bowling, mini golf or karaoke
  Smile – it’s the beginning of laughter and, like laughter, it’s contagious
  Move towards laughter when you hear it
  Think of all the good things in your life. This will distance you from negative
thoughts which get in the way of laughter

As first appeared in Launceston Examiner, 19 November 2012

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