Laughter is a universal language which even a newborn infant understands. Individuals love to laugh at a good joke and feel pleased when they are happy. Many popular comedians, including the worldwide icon Charlie Chaplin, had a tragic personal life which was completely different from their on-screen portrayal. Humor and laughter were their medicines to cover up grief and prevent from succumbing to depression.
Laughter therapy is listed under complementary therapy and is a type of therapy that uses humor to relieve pain, decrease stress and improve the overall well-being of a person. It has been used to help people with serious diseases such as cancer to cope with pain and stress. Also known as humor therapy, this includes laughter exercises, clowns, comedy shows, books, movies and games to induce laughter.
Humor and laughter are used together but they have subtle differences that make them distinct entities. Laughter yoga induces laughter without any humor involved (but has physiological benefits) but humor without any laughter has no benefits. Right from helping to boost immunity, reduce risk of cardiovascular disease to preventing depression and stress, laughter offers various benefits as given in the website www.firsteatright.com.
Physiological changes accompany laughter. Our face muscles stretch, pulse and blood pressure go up and we breathe faster, sending increased oxygen quantity to tissues. Some people compare laughter with exercise as they feel laughter to provide some of the same benefits as workout. A reputed laughter-based researcher claims that it takes almost 10 minutes on a rowing machine for the heart rate to reach the same levels as it would just after one minute of hearty laughter. While studies claim that laughter helps losing calories (10-15 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories), at no point can your laughter classes overpower daily exercise. A piece of chocolate contains 50 calories and you might think that laughing for 15 minutes can burn them away in no time. Get your math right, if this is the case losing half a kilogram of your weight would require you to laugh continuously for 12 hours and this is impossible!
Individuals attached to laughter therapy feel that just like meditation or nature walks, laughter should be an everyday routine. Learn to laugh at the most sorrowful situation, annoying instances and the smallest of chances that you get. It might be a funny movie date with your bestie, laughing at yourself for some of your craziest mistakes or joining a laughter club where you are forced to laugh (forced or natural, laughter has the same effect according to research).
Laughter Effects on Older Adults
A study has proved that incorporating laughter into a physical activity program could improve older adults’ mental health, aerobic endurance and confidence in their ability to exercise. For 6 weeks, individuals attended two 24-minute physical activity sessions that included 8-10 laughter exercises lasting 30 to 60 seconds each. One laughter exercise was introduced after every two to four strength, balance and flexibility exercises. The study found improvement in the participants mental health, aerobic endurance and exercise outcomes. Almost 96.2% participants enjoyed laughter exercises introduced in between conventional exercises and 88.8% commented that these laughter exercises motivated them to participate in the traditional exercise activities.
Older adults often find it tiresome to exercise and introducing laughter in between exercises makes them look forward to exercising as it becomes fun-filled and beneficial too. Simulated laughter proves beneficial for individuals with impaired cognitive or behavioral skills as they need not realize the essence of the joke (this needs cognition) as there is no joke. The combined laughter-exercise routine adds enjoyment to exercise programs and keeps older adults motivated to work out.
Laugh Out Loud
Being around with people makes us 30 times likelier to laugh than being alone. There are evidences showing that laughing makes a person healthier, but it should not be the case that a person laughs just because he/she want to procrastinate death. Laughing, spending time with family/friends and being happy can make us feel good. Regardless of whether laughter helps in improving health or boosting energy, it helps in well-being, quality of life and peace. Along with eating your produce and doing exercise, dedicate time to laugh too! You don’t require a prescription to laugh. Let go, enjoy the world around and laugh to your heart’s content. But days are not far off when physicians might recommend 15-20 minutes of laughter along with 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.