You might be surprised to learn that laughter can be a full body workout. When you laugh your diaphragm, abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles all get a workout, blood pressure is lowered and oxygenation of the blood increases.
Whilst researching the effects of laughter, pioneer laughter researcher William Fry discovered that he could could increase his heart rate with one minute of hearty laughter to what would take him 10 minutes to do on the rowing machine or 15 minutes on the exercise bike.
In addition to being a great form of exercise, with the mental, emotional and social health benefits of laughter you may discover that by adding laughter to your fitness professional tool kit you get a whole new stream of clients laughing right through your door!
The First Human Laughter.
Laughter is within the biological makeup of the human species and preceded spoken language as a form of communication, bonding and stress relief all of which are vital for survival. Thus laughter is a universal language in which we as humans can all connect on regardless of age, sex, language, culture or physical ability.
In fact did you know that babies start to laugh when they are only a few months old. Studies show that even deaf and blind babies start to laugh at the same age, which demonstrates that it is not something we ‘learn’ to do. It’s a natural human function, and a very important one at that.
Did you know that the average adult only laughs about 15 times a day whilst children can laugh somewhere in the range of 300 to 400 times in the same day?
It’s a pretty sobering statistic considering that in Australia we now have soaring rates of obesity, depression, heart disease, cancer and many other stress related illnesses.
Interestingly enough laughter is great exercise, dissolves stress, releases endorphins (the happy hormones) which improve our mood, breaks down barriers, helps us to feel connected, releases natural pain killers, massages the internal organs, aids digestion, strengthens the lungs, boosts the immune system, dissolve anger, builds resilience, can improve the quality of our sleep and can help us develop a sense of humour, all of which can be of great benefit in combatting many of the serious health conditions we are facing.
One of the first things I ask people when I run a laughter session is “how do you feel when you laugh?”. Take a moment to think about that right now. The most popular answers include, “I feel good”, “happy”, “free”, “energised” and “present”.
And then when I ask “who would like more laughter in their lives?” pretty much everyone puts their hand up. We all know that it feels good, is good for us and we’d like to do it more (especially in the western world). But how do we raise our laughter quota?
Two models of Laughter.
There are two distinct faces of laughter, one smiling and friendly and the other can be dark and sinister. I define them as the childlike and adult models of laughter.
The childlike model of laughter is natural, spontaneous and unconditional. This is one of our most natural states and is defined as the ‘inner spirit of laughter’ by Dr Kataria, the founder of Laughter Yoga. The childlike model of laughter is laughing for no reason and not needing a reason to laugh. It comes from the whole body and is generally done from a state of playfulness, joy, love and connection.
The adult model of laughter is conditioned, conditional and something we learn to do to fit in or be acceptable. The adult model which is from the mind and generally focused on something external to ourselves like a joke, something smart, intellectual or just downright nasty. Although this model of laughter can be perceived as fun, it is often limiting and hurtful to ourselves or others.
Obviously there is greater all round physical, mental, emotional and social benefits of rediscovering our inner spirit of laughter based on the childlike model. But how do we do this?
History and Science of Laughter
It has long been known throughout both ancient and modern culture that laughter is the best medicine. Romans built their hospitals next to the amphitheaters so patients could benefit from hearing the laughter of audiences and there was often a court jester to entertain Kings & Queens at Royal Courts.
In our more modern culture it is the work of people like Norman Cousins (author of Anatomy of an Illness), Patch Adams and the Clown Doctors, along with major research by Dr Lee Burk, William Fry and Robert Provine that has helped bring the benefits of laughter into the light of medical science.
Much of this research is based using humour to stimulate laughter, this however does not generally sustain the laughter within the participant long enough to gain the benefits of using laughter as a form of exercise.
That all changed when in 1995, Dr Madan Kataria started his first laughter club where they initially used jokes to get people laughing, however the good jokes quickly ran out. Going back to the drawing board Dr Kataria discovered that scientific research shows that the brain does not differentiate between real or simulated laughter, and that if you do simulated laughter you get all the benefits as if you were laughing naturally. Plus when you do simulated laughter in a group, because of the group interaction and the contagious effect of laughter, your natural laughter will often take over!
Laughter Yoga is a method that uses a combination of gentle stretching, deep yogic breathing and simulated laughter exercises to stimulate the release of natural spontaneous laughter. It is a non-humour based form of laughter designed to help us rediscover our childlike model of laughter, playfulness and creativity.
Since it’s inception the Laughter Yoga method has become a global movement and spread like wildfire around the globe. It’s also inspired many new scientific research studies on the effects and benefits of laughter in the process.
Three Big Myths about Laughter.
You need to be happy to laugh.
You need a reason to laugh.
You need a sense of humour to laugh.
The truth is the more you laugh the happier you will feel, the more reasons you will find to laugh and the greater a sense of humour you will develop!
So are YOU ready to add more fun into your life in a healthy, happy and natural way?
Well all you need to do is make a conscious decision to start laughing out loud more, because the more you laugh the better you will feel. You’ll also be making a great difference to the lives of others as you encourage them to laugh and get to enjoy the onflow effect with your family, colleagues, clients and community.
Not only will YOU be more attractive by smiling and laughing more but you may be surprised that your business and services also become more attractive to your prospective clients and members.
After all, if you had a choice between training in a place that was filled with grumpy, frowning and stressed out people or a place filled with happy, smiling and enthusiastic people, which experience would you be willing to pay for?
Laughter. A Scientific Investigation. By Robert R Provine.
Laugh for No Reason. By Dr Madan Kataria.
Anatomy of an Illness. Norman Cousins.