Who doesn’t love a good chuckle? But apart from lifting our spirits, giving us a sense of connection to those around us and generally making us feel better, have you ever wondered what laughter actually does for us physically – or mentally? Acclaimed Chinese Medicine Practitioner Katie Brindle shows us why it makes sense to be silly.
Laughter qigong is one of my favourite mind/body practices. Aside from being incredibly funny, joyous and often downright silly, it has been the surprise hit of our qigong sessions. Laughing really is incredibly good for us, with multiple healing benefits:
Laughter improves the immune system. When we have negative thoughts or emotions, the negativity can trigger chemical reactions that consequently harm the body by bringing more stress into our systems. This can then damage the health and effectiveness of our immunity. By contrast, when we have positive, uplifting thoughts we release neuropeptides, the chemical messengers that assist us in fighting stress. This can then help to avoid more serious, stress-related illnesses or health issues developing. It is said that one minute of laughter can boost the immune system for 24 hours.
Laughter relieves pain. When we laugh, our body produces endorphins, the so-called “feel-good” chemicals: the body’s natural painkillers. Endorphins can enable tense, painful muscles to relax, even becoming slightly more tolerant of long-term pain. This can make laughter qigong a very valuable component of pain management, on both a physical and mental level.
Laughter improves mood and mental wellbeing. With depression and anxiety increasing, mental health awareness should be very much part of our own self-care practices. Laughter can help to lessen depression and anxiety, putting our negative thoughts and feelings into perspective, and helping us to feel happier which, in turn, benefits our overall health. Put into simple terms, it can make us feel better.
The deeper that sadness carves its way into your being, the more joy it can contain. Khalil Gibran
Laughter boosts lymphatic drainage. Laughter can help us detox. Who knew!! This is because when we laugh we take in more oxygen, causing our diaphragm to expand and then sharply contract – aka, a good old belly laugh. This pumping action stimulates our lymphatic circulation, which is unable to move on its own. This movement helps to naturally drain toxins and waste products out of the body before they can cause any harm.
Laughter stimulates the organs. Laughter can benefit all organs of the body. The physical act of laughter enhances our intake of oxygen-rich air which stimulates and nourishes our Heart and Lung energy, as well as increasing the endorphins being released by our brains. As all of our organs work together to keep the body balanced, this simple practice has a knock-on effect of benefiting all other organs, as well as our muscles and tissues.
Laughter controls the stress response. Laughter can immediately relax us by firing up and then cooling down our stress response. As we laugh our blood pressure initially rises and our heart rate initially increases -but then our blood pressure will drop, our heart rate will slow and that will result in a relaxed and happy feeling. From this relaxed state, the body can start to heal.
Laughter soothes tension. Laughter can stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, which can help alleviate physical symptoms of stress. Not only that, but it can also soothe tension in our face and neck. As our stresses lift, and any anger or negative feelings evaporate, our facial muscles will soften so we will look as well as feel happier. A great reason to turn that frown upside down!
Is there a difference between real and fake laughter?
What if we just don’t feel like laughing? However funny a joke or a situation is, or however much we love our favourite comedy programme, sometimes we’re just not feeling it.
In one of my favourite books, the Eight Immortal Healers, Master Mantak Chia says:
The act of laughing, whether natural or artificially induced, causes the production and release of literally hundreds of different chemicals that assist in healing the body and releasing stress.
Hard to imagine, perhaps, especially in these challenging times, but actually the times when we feel least like laughing are when we need it most. What’s more, the body cannot differentiate between real and fake laughter. So, you really can ‘fake it ‘til you make it’.
Laughter Therapy and Qigong
Incorporating Laughter Therapy into my qigong classes adds to the overall balance of the session – which is exactly what this practice is all about.
We begin the class with some clearing dragon breaths to expel stale energy and breathe in fresh life force before shaking, twisting and drumming to awaken our qi and prepare ourselves for the day ahead.
After our warmup we settle down for the healing sounds and take our attention into each of our five key organs with the power of our diaphragm: each sound having a specific vibration which resonates with the individual organ to nurture, nourish and heal. This is actually one of the oldest forms of breath therapy and can be performed exuberantly or softly, almost meditatively, depending on how you are feeling. It is a beautiful self-care practice to perform before bed too, almost like a lullaby. The sounds for each organ are:
Heart – Haaaa
Lungs – Sssss
Spleen – Whooo
Liver – Shhhh
Kidneys – Chooo
We then go into the all-important Laughter Therapy. We so often hear that laughter is the best medicine and I absolutely agree! The action of laughing – the vibrations that reverberate around the body, and the forceful outward breath – can actually have a healing effect both emotionally and physically, not to mention the benefits to our immune systems, as I mentioned earlier. Not only that, laughing is contagious and brings a feeling of connection and community to our followers.
I have had people on my lives comment that they’ve felt anxious, stressed, low or even depressed, yet after a little Laughter Therapy their spirits have been lifted and their negative emotions have shifted.
This is because negative emotion is actually blocked energy, and the act of laughing, moving our body and particularly our diaphragm in that juddering way, can begin to shift those blockages, allowing the energy to again flow smoothly, which is essential for our health and well-being.
I have absolutely no doubt that Laughter Therapy is an integral part of my qigong sessions, and as beneficial to our self-care practice as the qigong moves for both immediate and long-term results”.
I have noticed since practising laughter qigong every day that I’m a lot happier in general and I also find it much easier to laugh. There is nothing better and it doesn’t matter whether you are laughing at a comedy on Netflix, or crying with laughter with one of your friends, it all has the same beneficial effect.
So go on…. have a giggle today!
Find out more about Katie Brindle here and follow Hayo’ufit on Instagram or head over to the website for all the latest updates.