It’s May and just like that we’re almost half way through the year. Did you know that 1st May, which is commonly known as May Day, is also World Laughter Day? Research and science are now helping us to understand why laughing is such a necessary and important natural medicine for our bodies and minds.
Established in 1998, the first world Laughter Day celebration was on 10 May 1998, in Mumbai, India. It was arranged by Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of the worldwide Laughter Yoga movement. Today, celebrations are held worldwide in more than 6000 Laughter Yoga Clubs.
But why do we need an actual day to remind us to laugh?
Sadly, the stresses and challenges of life can mean that laughing is something we forget to do or just don’t feel we have anything to be happy and laugh about. The importance and health benefits associated with laughing, really can’t be underestimated.
When we laugh, we release endorphins; the ones that make us feel good. But it doesn’t stop at just making us feel good, laughing has been scientifically proven to be beneficial for our physical and mental health in many other ways too. So why is laughing such a natural medicine for our bodies and minds?
Why is laughing a natural medicine?
1. Stimulates Organs – Laughing increases your intake of oxygen, which helps stimulate all your organs, including your heart, lungs, liver, kidney and muscles.
2. Stress Reliever – Helps you relax due to the hormones released, this in turns makes you feel less stressed
3. Muscle Relaxant – Laughter can help soothe tension by aiding muscle relaxation and improving circulation.
4. Strengthens Immunity – Over time, laughing regularly may help your immune system. Positive thoughts releases neuropeptides, which help fight stress – which decrease your immunity.
5. Fights Pain – Laughter helps your body produce it’s own natural painkiller so can actually help reduce pain.
6. Reduces Depression – The act of laughing naturally improves your mood.
7. Burns Calories – Just 10-15 minutes of laughing every day can burn up to 40 calories. That’s 4-5 pounds a year just from a daily dose of laughing.
8. Mood Enhancer – Laughing is contagious, laugh and watch others around you light up. Laughing can help improve everyone’s mood and also help you connect to people.
The wonderful thing about laughter is that it’s universal with no language or cultural barriers.
The Concept of Laughter Yoga
One of the activities we incorporate into our Wellness Retreats is Laughter Yoga. We usually do this towards the end of the retreat when the group have had a chance to get to know each other.
It was all ‘invented’ by Dr Madan Kitaria, when, only as recently as 1995, scientific evidence suggested that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter.
During the activity, laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group, with eye contact and childlike playfulness.
As you can imagine, at the start, the laughter is fake and perhaps slightly uncomfortable for some. However, as one gets the same psychological and physiological benefits whether the laughter is fake or genuine, it doesn’t matter if you are just pretending to laugh.
The amazing thing is, it all soon turns into real and contagious laughter. That deep, satisfying belly kind! So we just need to forget our inhibitions, release the child within and playfully participate to reap the benefits.
But there’s no harm in faking it til you make it because “laughter is, and will always be, the best form of therapy” – Dau Voire.