31 Jul Belly Laughs

The earth laughs in flowers.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

When was the last time you laughed until your belly hurt? I have been asking my clients this question for a few weeks now. There appears to be a similar response – a widening of the eyes followed by a furrow of the brow as they cast their mind back to a time when they really truly laughed until it hurt! And by hurt we mean side splitting, tear enducing, shoulder rocking, nose snorting, gasping for air, hand on the belly kind of laughter. How could you forget a moment that causes you to do all of that! Easily, apparently! For some, the experience was so long ago that they struggle to remember the last time they enjoyed that blissful state of being in the moment and finding whatever it was impossibly, ridiculously funny. For others it happened that very morning with one client turning up giggling as she recalled her morning with her son who had requested that the entire family dress up as superheroes and jump up and down on the trampoline engaging in battles to save the universe that soon dissolved into fits of laughter.

“Laughter is extremely important because it can brighten dark surroundings, add light to a gloomy situation, or break a silence. Fun is the glue holding life together. Funliness is next to cleanliness!”

– a Seventh Grader observation.

Fun Facts:
• One good belly laugh burns about 3.5 calories
• The sound of laughter isn’t associated with any one language
• In groups, women laugh more than men
• Most people can’t laugh on command
• Healthy people laugh 100-400 times a day
• Laughter improves creativity, alertness and memory
• Laughter is an instant vacation

The busy adult brain may dismiss this laughter quest, arguing that such ‘tom foolery’ behaviour is reserved for kids without a care in the world. Yet those that do, are prescribing to the healing remedy that laughter is medicine. Even within the world of wellness there is so much seriousness around attaining a certain lifestyle and also with the strategies and approaches being adopted to attain that lifestyle. The latest cool diet, fitness craze, healing techniques, wellness blogs telling us how to achieve balance and inner peace, instagram pics of green smoothies. It can be relentless and overwhelming. Despite being a blogger of this genre, I am also witnessing through my interaction with clients, friends, colleagues and family the lack of time being put aside to just simply enjoy life without the guilt of skipping a yoga class to go cart wheel down a hill with the kids, or god forbid another adult, then enjoying a slice of your favourite pizza with said kids or adult.

“Laughter is not only the best medicine. It’s what keeps marriages alive, families from going insane, team mates in sync, and companies from going belly under (pun intended). Let your own Magical Impish Child come out more often and you’ll be surprised at how the world looks different — for the better.”

– Carol Ross, team development consultant.

Having worked in the health and wellness industry for over 20 years, one of the many incidences that still makes me smile are yoga students who rock up to a yoga class with diva demanding attitudes, frequently unfriendly, carrying with them an entitlement to their place in class even when the friendly receptionist has politely shared that ‘the class is now full’. As they wait for class, there is little interaction or eye contact despite all the encouragement in the form of words written above the reception – live, love, laugh, share, joy, connect, oneness. Even in class the energy is not a universal collective one, more one of separateness. I would often hear the receptionist quietly reflect as the class filtered into the studio ‘When did self practice become self centred?’ I had coffee with a friend recently who told me she had asked her mother if she would like to come with her to a conference about ‘Happiness’. Her mother replied ‘No thank you darling, that’s not really my thing’. The world is made up of all sorts and I want to reach out to those who are looking to give themselves permission to lighten up a little then take that energy into a yoga class, or a dinner you are preparing enjoying a glass of red wine with your healthy zucchini pasta. I am in no way advocating unhealthy living in the form of dietary choices but hopefully highlighting where we can tip the balance back so that we can loosen the reins on areas that are choking our ability to laugh, all in good nature, at life, at ourselves and with each other.

Laughter’s Effects on the Body

“The simple truth is that happy people generally don’t get sick.”

– Bernie Siegel, M.D.

Researchers have been studying the effects of laughter and have even given the area of humour and laughter study a name – Gelotology. The name itself makes me laugh! To date published studies have shown that laughing:

~ Triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and produces a general sense of well-being allowing a person to “forget” about aches and pains.

“Laughter promotes our emotional state which in turn may enhance our physical health.”

– Michael Miller, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.H.A.

~ Reduces ‘stress hormones’ such as adrenaline and dopamine.

~ Effects blood flow. Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally – expanding and contracting easily. But the blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.
~ Boosts immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins which produce disease-destroying antibodies. The emotions and moods we experience directly affect our immune system so allowing laughter in keeps the sickness out.
~Results in muscle relaxation with the muscles that don’t participate in the belly laugh relaxing and after you finish laughing those muscles involved in the laughter start to relax.
~ Can provide good cardiac conditioning especially for those who are unable to perform physical exercises.
~ Allows you to empty your lungs of more air than it takes in resulting in a cleansing effect similar to deep breathing.

“A smile is a little curve that straightens everything out”

When you walk down the street… smile at people, whistle if you like; engage in child like activities; always look on the bright side of life; eat ice cream; dance like everyone is watching; laugh like you don’t have a care in the world…

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