What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul. – Yiddish Proverb
Article written by guest contributor Harriet Cabelly.
I attended a laughter workshop recently. I figured it was high time to experience something new, and hopefully take away some tidbits to add to my repertoire of coaching practices, healing and helping techniques.
I knew it involved some fake laughter which I was a bit skeptical about and uncomfortable with, but I figured I’d stretch myself past my discomfort and try it out. I also knew that the body cannot distinguish real from induced laughter. And so the bodily benefits are the same.
I had read Norman Cousins and knew the medicinal benefits of laughter. The three main ones being:
1. Stress buster– reduces stress
2. Immune system builder – strengthens our immune system
3. Reduces pain – increases endorphin levels
We sat for the didactic piece and then the fun began with the experiential activities.
Laughing for no reason
With exercises that promoted fake laughing, pushing those sounds out of ourselves, attempting to let go of our inhibitions, we all sounded like cackling fools. But after a few minutes of these forced chuckles, the real stuff began to come out.
And the more real laughter erupted, the more contagious it became and the more the deep laughter came forth.
We were laughing for no real reason, other than the fact that our laughter was feeding off one another and taken in by each other. We were all giddy, free and uninhibited. It really felt wonderful losing oneself in gales of laughter.
We took breaks in between exercises. I certainly needed to relax my facial muscles since they had started hurting from stretching them so wide for periods of time. Sad to say those muscles aren’t used to such ‘work’.
Putting a name to the laugh
Exercises such as Gradient laughter, Lion laughter and Silent laughter, to name but a few, all put our facial muscles to work, and eventually as our laughter became the real thing our bellies became engaged as well. And then the tear ducts got involved as we laughed so hard the tears started falling.
The Gibberish exercise was the most fun. There are no words, just made-up sounds with hand movements to try to make someone understand you. The carrying on in this way becomes the point of laughter.
All this goofiness went on for almost two hours. And we ended with some relaxation mediations.
We all left like wet Raggedy Ann dolls, completely loose and unwound. If I was an ice cream cone I would’ve been dripping all over the floor.
That’s how goosey loosey and relaxed I felt. Light and free, with not a care in the world. I had never experienced such a complete work-out – for the body, mind and soul.
So what can laughter do?
It can: lift us, lighten us, and free us. Give us a fresh perspective. Release negativity.
We can feel: child-like, silly, uninhibited, joyful, playful, relaxed.
When was the last time you had that good belly laugh where you were hysterical, practically on the floor and almost peeing in your pants? It may be long overdue.