When dealing with distress, you’ll often hear me quote the late author of Man’s Search for Meaning with his words “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” I often point to mindfulness as a way to increase that space between what triggers us and the way we respond to it, so we can break out of our habitual patterns of the mind and choose a different way that will lead to less stress and more health and well-being. Well, there’s another way to create that space as author Therese Borchard writes in her recent blog On April Fool’s Day: 9 Ways Humor Heals. She writes “Laughter forces a few steps–some much-needed distance– between a situation and our reaction.” Today reminds us to bring more laughter into our lives as a way to bring more healing. But what if you’re not in a space to laugh, what if there is too much distress going on?
Dr. Madan Kataria tells us that it doesn’t make a difference whether you force laughter or it comes naturally, eventually it becomes contagious and it just flows. He is the founder of, hold onto your seat, Laughing Yoga. This form of yoga combines laughter exercises with yoga breathing, moving and stretching, which releases much needed endorphins and brings more oxygen and energy into the body. Just like in mindfulness work, we practice just being present for its own sake, in laughing yoga, we just laugh for the sake of laughing and you can’t help but be present to it.
Sound ridiculous? If it does, we can just notice our initial judgments, let them be and come back to reading more. This started in 1995 and there are now over 6000 laughter clubs around the world in 60 countries. It’s been featured on CNN and the Oprah Winfrey Show. According to Dr. Lee Burk at Loma Linda University, laughter can decrease stress hormones, improve immune system and boost endorphins. Dr. Michael Miller from the University of Maryland suggests that laughter can improve circulatory and cardiovascular health. This can be supportive when struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression. Apparently it’s been used with Iraqi war veterans, Policemen in Taiwan, and those struggling with cancer.
But really, Laughing Yoga? It’s natural to be skeptical because really, if you go onto YouTube and watch any of the videos it can look pretty strange and goofy. If you continue watching, you may notice more thoughts come to mind that speak to the absurdity of it. If you keep paying attention to your mood, you may notice that you can’t help but smile and that whatever stress you were feeling has actually lifted a bit. That is just from watching a video and not even being in a room.
Try looking into this on April Fools or any day; it may just make you smile. If it does, don’t let your mind tell you it’s not for you. Let the proof be in the pudding.
As always, please share your thoughts, questions, and experiences. What makes you laugh? Your interactions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.