When did you last laugh? I mean really laugh – you know, that roaring, full-body, out-of-control laughing you probably did so much of a child. If you’re anything like me, you’ll struggle to remember when. Yet laughing is good for us – and a trend is gathering pace to encourage us to do more of it. Welcome to the off-beat world of laughter yoga, and laughter gyms.
On her website, www.laughtergym.com, ex-language and drama therapist Amanda Bate lists the manifold benefits of laughing properly.
Apparently, 16 million of us fail to enjoy a proper belly laugh even once a day – and the amount we laugh on a daily basis is a staggering three times lower than it was in the 1950s.
So much for increased wealth bringing increased happiness: the reverse, it would seem is true. As Bate points out, often, these days, we rely on others to make us laugh – whether that’s the TV, or round-robin jokes, instead of using our own (often deeply hidden) child-centric selves to create our own fun.
So why is laughing good for us? Laughing 100 times a day – am I unusual in laughing only half a dozen times a day at the most? – is equal to a ten minute workout on a rowing machine.
It’s akin to ‘internal jogging’, such is the workout it brings to the internal organs. Laughter also decreases blood pressure and gives the respiratory, abdominal and diaphragm areas a workout.
There’s more. According to Bate, belly laughing reduces levels of stress hormones; increases the level of cancer-zapping cells in our bodies, and boosts the immune system.
It also, I’m lead to believe, encourages positive thinking, relaxes the whole body and unleashes inhibitions, breaking down the self-consciousness that, as adults, we have learnt.
Given the manifold benefits of having a damn good, hearty laugh, I am beginning to wonder we’re all so miserable most of the time.
All is not lost. There’s a fast-growing industry doing its best to counter our negativity: laughter yoga clubs and gyms are spring up all over the country, the media has been shouting about the trend, and laughter clubs and holidays are springing up to shake us out of our gloom.
Worlwide, there are now over 5000 laugher clubs, with The States, as ever, leading the trend. The website www.laughteryoga.org even boasts of a series of Laughter Yoga conferences taking place in the US this year.
The correlation between laughter and standard yoga is not as tenuous as you might first assume. Both work on massaging the internal organs and help deepen breathing and relaxation and fight stress. Both help to bring us out of ourselves, and our daily lives, and induce a sense of wellbeing.
In the UK, www.laughteryoga.co.uk is just one company organising regular workshops and evenings. I’ve made a pledge to myself to Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway and sign up for a class or two. Anyone care to join me?
Image Source: Adam Wolszczak - FOTOLIA