It is Okay to Laugh!

Last night as I was boiling a kettle of herbal tea and waiting for the water to heat up, it reminded me of stress. Sometimes the little things add up to a boil! The misplaced keys in the morning, your internet not working, your mail is delivered to a wrong address, having to go to work and dealing with an unwanted co-worker, etc. These small things pile together and cause a slow boil. We have all been there!  As individuals, we tend to allow things to build up until we cannot see what is in front of us. As I pondered about this, my thoughts went back to Nakeisha Tolbert’s talk on ‘Laughter Yoga’ at the 2019 Annual Healthcare Thinkathon event earlier that day.  This event hosted by the Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Science (CHIIS) at the Regions Tower in downtown Indianapolis, was a gathering of highly charged, passionate and driven professionals from various industries, committed to leading and sustaining change in the healthcare system.

Tolbert pointed out that “self-care is a necessity and a priority.” Everyone wants health and happiness in his or her life.  Sadly though, stress, depression, and unhappiness are on the rise all over the world. It was shocking to learn that kids laugh 300 times/day on average and adults only 20!

Being happy is not about your mood, but it’s also medicine for your soul. In fact, the most natural, fastest, and effective way of relieving stress in the world is through the practice of laughter yoga.

Laughter Yoga is a revolutionary idea, an exercise routine that is sweeping the world and is a complete well-being workout. The concept of laughter yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits. Developed by an Indian physician Madan Kataria, laughter yoga is based on laughing without any particular reason. While engaging in laughter yoga, you make eye contact with other people in a group and recreate the things we come across in daily life. The laughter which starts as something fake turns into real laughter just after 45 seconds.

As I heard Tolbert talk about laughter yoga, my memories took me back in time. As a young girl, I recall having attended one such laughter session with my father at a park in Bombay in 1995. At the time, I was puzzled and amused by a large gathering of people at the park clapping rhythmically and chanting “Ho, ho, ha, ha, ha” several times. The next thing I saw was people taking a series of deep breaths, filling their lungs with air and releasing with a big laugh. Next came the laughter exercises. I suddenly found myself surrounded by people running in a circle and greeting one another with laughter. I could not help but feel a little ridiculous, laughing my way around a room full of strangers without any reason. As each person gazed into the other person’s eyes, I wondered if they were really laughing or, like me, trying hard to fake it. I think I even caught an are-we-really-doing-this glance from one woman. However, after a few minutes, many of participants seemed to be genuinely laughing. One woman was practically rolling on the floor during some of the exercises, her body convulsed with laughter. Honestly, it seemed like I was in a circus full of clowns!

Today I understand that laughter is actually the best medicine, and, Nakeisha’s talk only reinforced that. The benefits of having a good laugh are wide-ranging. Ten minutes of laughter yoga daily can make miraculous changes to your body and mind. For instance, the body starts to release the “happiness” hormone when you start laughing, and your mood elevates in seconds. You feel more energetic, and you can channel that energy in your personal and professional life.

Laughter decreases stress hormones that your body releases every day. Laughter yoga drops your blood pressure and is suitable for the cardiovascular system. It also helps fight anxiety. Further, as you get more oxygen to your body and brain while doing laughter yoga, it helps you to focus more on daily tasks.

So the bottom line is – IT’s OKAY TO LAUGH!

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