The subject of laughter is actually no joke. It carries the ability to change your entire life perspective. It deepens your experiences. And it just might allow you to live longer.
As the founder of Whole Body Laughter, a Salt Lake City-based company, Karen Bayard has spent an entire career focused on the life-changing effects of laughter and play. She created and taught the first semester-long, for-credit college level Laughter Yoga course in the United States. Bayard has also designed playshops and fun-infused training programs internationally for Trinity College, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Western Governors University, Valley Mental Health and many other institutions across the country. She is deeply passionate about the use of humor and play as tools for vibrant, inspired and purposeful living and gratefully shared some of her LOL wisdom.
5 REASONS TO
1 LAUGHTER IS A POWERFUL MEDICINE
Clinical research shows that laughter can lower your levels of stress hormones, strengthen your immune system, and release feel-good endorphins that are natural painkillers, just to name a few. “With just normal everyday breathing, we’re only using such a small percentage of our lung capacity,” explains Bayard. “Laughing increases our ability to take deeper breaths, oxygenate our bodies and brains, and feel rejuvenated in the process.”
2 LAUGH AND THE WORLD WILL LAUGH WITH YOU
It’s simply a natural wonder—laughter is contagious. Th e sound of laughter actually triggers regions in the premotor cortical region of your brain, which is involved in moving your facial muscles.
3 IT CREATES CLOSER RELATIONSHIPS
Bayard explains, “Over the years, what I’ve found is that laughter disarms people. It allows all the walls they put up to melt away, while leading to a changed perspective.”
4 IT BUILDS UP YOUR RESERVES
“Being committed to laughing more, and enjoying life more, can make a big difference when tough times roll around,” believes Bayard.
5 LAUGHING IS LIKE TAKING A MINI VACATION
Yet it’s always available and free.
5 WAYS TO
1 DISCOVER LAUGHTER YOGA
Developed by Dr. Madan Kataria in India in 1995, it has now spread across 100 countries. Neither mats nor athleticism are required. Its main connection to traditional yoga is its focus on breath through voluntary laughter exercises. See laughteryoga. org.
2 CREATE A “PLAY LIST”
Bayard suggests making a “play list” of 100 things you would like to do just for fun, just for you. Th en take the time to start joyfully checking each one off your list.
3 JOIN A LAUGHTER CLUB
There are thousands of free clubs around the country and world with people who gather for socializing, easy stretching, breathing exercises and laughter practices, oft en ending with a guided relaxation. See lyinstitute.org.
4 TAKE A LESSON FROM THE KIDS
“There are so many opportunities to laugh that many of us miss as adults,” said Bayard. “We can learn so much from the way children feel free to express joy and laughter.”
5 FIND NEW RESOURCES
Think beyond your favorite funny movie. Be sure to check out wholebodylaughter.com for more insights, as well as an updated schedule of upcoming events and workshops. Th e Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (aath.org) also provides additional research and ideas.
“An amazing result I’ve found that people experience as they participate in laughter and play activities is that they learn to laugh more oft en, and more easily, and to understand how to add more joy and laughter to their lives on their own,” said Bayard. She compares our bodies to a soda can full of effervescence. Th ose bubbles represent the potential joy in our lives—we have a choice to let them silently bounce around unnoticed, to slowly open the tab and release a small or large “pssst” sound, or to shake them about and cause a fantastic explosion.
By Laura Jackson