This past week, I attended a Laughter Yoga session with the Richmond Hill Walk-In Laughter Yoga Club at the McConaghy Community Centre.
For those of you who haven’t experienced laughtercise, essentially as a group, you go through various ice breaker activities essentially practicing simulated laughter. For me, the best part was that a lot of the activities led to infectious, genuine laughter, especially watching and hearing those around me.
Did you know? When you laugh you use approximately 50 facial muscles and more than 300 distinct groups of muscles of the body! Amazing, isn’t it? What’s especially neat is the fact that the brain is not able to distinguish between simulated laughter versus self-induced, red-faced, belly-aching laughter (and for me, the occasional laugh interspersed with some snorting – I know it happens to you too!)
The scientist in me could not resist looking up some of the comprehensive laughter literature studies confirming quantifiable physiological, psychological, social and spiritual benefits to improve quality of life and enhance wellbeing. Essentially, laughter is great for combating burnout (by decreasing cortisol, our stress hormone), helps persons who are grieving, it induces natural pain-killing effects, enhances muscle relaxation, improves oxygenation of your tissues, is heart protective, contributes to longevity and directly improves immune function (by increasing natural killer cells, or NK cells) to name but a few of its benefits. Laughter is simply one of my favourite past times; I left the session feeling energized, centered and more calm. The days that followed were probably some of my more efficient days.
As it turns out, we can’t practice laughter with others, if we can’t laugh at ourselves. Half the benefit of laughter is sharing it — so do that!