“Gentlemen, why don’t you laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me day and night, if I did not laugh I should die, and you need this medicine as much as I do.” ~Abraham Lincoln
I was probably in sixth standard when during the school vacations I used to go for morning walks with my father. It was then, while briskly walking along the periphery of the football ground I used to notice a group of eight elderly men laughing while exercising or more precisely while doing Yoga.
They always attracted my attention because in those chilly morning hours, their laughter would roar loud, in the silence at 5 a.m.On close observation I noted that these people didn’t laugh in response to jokes and were not even talking to each other during the time they did yoga. They’d just raise their hands up above their heads and laugh, a practice often referred to as Laughter Yoga.
In those pre-Google days, I had read about the health benefits of the so-called ‘laughter therapy’ in a couple of magazines and newspaper columns. However, I was too young to comprehend the science behind as not much research was published in the magazines I read. But one thing was clear, this was a practice to reduce stress levels and help improve the immunity and cardiovascular status of the individuals by lowering the harmful effects of chronic stress.
My preteen mind refused to see any sense or possible healing powers in laughing without a reason. I believed that laughter was good but only when we laughed out of happiness or amusement and not simply for the sake of guffaws. This form of therapy sounded hollow to me.
Time moved on, life got stressful but my dislike for the laughter therapy remained unchanged.
Even Boman Irani’s impeccable portrayal of Dr. Asthana in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. who practiced laughter therapy couldn’t persuade me to believe in the power of laughter therapy.
I have a weird sense of humor that does helps me beat stress from time to time cracking silly jokes. But other than that, the effervescent, smiling, jaunty me died with the setbacks in my personal life around five years ago. I could feel the stress build up, but felt helpless, breathless and light-headed to be able to break free.
Battling depression and struggling to manage a partially warm smile, I once experienced the healing touch of laughter therapy that changed my perception forever.
I was once talking to an acquaintance who was showering me with her gyan of how I needed to move on in life after my divorce and other nuggets of wisdom on similar lines. I was playing along, nodding my way politely, just when I couldn’t take it anymore and broke into an impromptu laughter. As baffled was the person, I was amazed at how i suddenly felt so relieved as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
It was a very relaxed, happy feeling. Albeit momentary but noteworthy. A couple of days later at the beauty parlor, I laughed (intentionally) during waxing and surprisingly the pain felt a lot more bearable than it does on rather tender areas. There has been no looking back ever since.
Maybe the answers to the many Why(s) I asked here too lie in this phenomenon.
I have always trusted laughter to brighten up my day, attract people with its warmth and fill the air with joy. But its stress-busting potential as experienced by me lately has drawn me towards including it as a staple in my everyday life that I aim to cultivate with conscious effort.
Pari has helped me make this happen in ways only children can. She loves to see me laugh and I make sure to give her more reasons than before to laugh which in turn acts as my trigger and reminder to follow suit.
By seeking out more opportunities for laughter, I strive to improve my emotional health, strengthen my relationships and find greater happiness while making everyday as joyous as I possibly can.
Did you know, it is scientifically proven that:
- Humans laughed even before they spoke. Proof lies in the fact that babies as young as 17 days old have been observed doing it.
- Laughter isn’t always tied to jokes but the company we are in or rather the bonding between individuals in a group matters.
- Laughter controls our brain and this is why on watching or hearing people laugh we can’t help but smile.
- Laughter can burn calories. It’s been shown in a study that just 10 to 15 minutes of laughing a day can burn up to 40 calories. No kidding! The increase in heart rate and oxygen consumption during funny moments helps boost the burn.
- Laughter can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, strengthen your immune system, and diminish pain.
Do you believe in / practice Laughter Therapy?
The song on my mind: Gori zara hans de tu ~ Asli Naqli