Livewell: Laughter, it’s no joking matter

An undeniably infectious condition, and yet the world’s greatest medicine. Sure, an apple a day may keep the doctor away. But, perhaps the true panacea is simply within us: laughter.

Whether it’s at a joke, to fill an awkward silence, or just out of nerves, I tend to laugh a lot. I’ve always heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine,” but little did I know the extent of its benefits.

Be it a subdued giggle or a wholehearted chortle, laughter provides us with a positive environment and a “feel-good” sensation. By releasing endorphins in our brain, it lifts our moods, contributing to our overall well-being.

However, aside from just improving our mental spirit, laughter can have concrete physical advantages for our body. According to a study conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, laughter can result in up to a 22% increase in blood circulation, promoting oxygen flow to the brain, and lowering blood pressure levels.

Laughter can also boost our immune systems by stimulating Natural Killer cells, enhancing our abilities to fight disease. So, if you feel a cold coming upon you, instead of instinctively reaching for that bottle of Advil, just try laughing. It’ll also provide you with good exercise, relaxing your muscles and relieving tension.

Earlier this week, I attended the San Jose Laughter Club, established eight years ago by Claire Powell, to test out the regenerative effects of laughter. As specified by Powell, the concept of laughter yoga was founded by Dr. Madan Kataria in Mumbai, India, with the intentions of spreading the revitalizing powers of laughter through daily classes.

The laughter club session began with a “clap and chant” routine in which participators walk around while clapping their hands and repeating “ho-ho…ha-ha-ha.”

Then, we gathered in a circle and performed various interactive laughing exercises, including “silent laughter,” “greeting laughter,” and “gradient laughter.” Perhaps the most rejuvenating was entitled “hearty laughter,” consisting of a genuine laugh from the heart, while extending arms towards the sky. The meeting concluded with a period of laughter meditation, during which we laughed for three full minutes without rest. While in the beginning, I felt forced to put a smile on my face, I found myself erupting in authentic laughter towards the end of the three minutes.

After this experience, I can confidently verify the mental and physical benefits of laughter. Even after just one laughter yoga session, I felt completely rejuvenated and energized.

Laughter embodies a sense of community and companionship; its contagious qualities can create bonds, even between strangers. When everyone around you is chuckling, there’s no holding back.

“We don’t need jokes or humor to make us laugh,” Powell said. “We just need each other.”