Let's face it; dieting is no joke. So you may be surprised to hear about one pleasant lifestyle change that could give you a small weight loss boost and do wonders for your overall mental and physical health: laughing more!

Though it may sound like a trivial matter, some people take laughter very seriously. In fact, laughter is so widely researched that the study of laughter has earned the name gelotology, and most of this research suggests that laughing could be excellent for your health.

For one, laughing can improve your pain tolerance, enhance your immune system, and tone your abdominal muscles. Having a better sense of humor has also been associated with having a lower rate of mortality from a variety of causes.

Laughter has also been found to help treat depression, and humor is being investigated as a potential intervention in dementia patients and as an add-on to traditional mental health methods like cognitive behavioral therapy.

This may be because our physical response to laughter is basically a reverse of our stress response. When we laugh, adrenaline and cortisol levels decrease while levels of endorphins and other happy chemicals like dopamine and serotonin go up. In fact, even anticipating laughter seems to reduce stress levels!

Finally, laughing is also heart-healthy. One study found that laughing improved arterial function in healthy participants, while another found that laughing increased participants' heart rate by 17 percent.

These participants also burned ten to forty calories above their usual by laughing for ten to fifteen minutes. This isn't nearly enough to result in weight loss unless you're also eating a healthy diet, but if you do it everyday, you may be able to lose an extra three or four pounds over the course of a year!


However, this suggestion to laugh more may not seem like very useful advice, especially given that a a 10 to 15 minute bout of laughter is rather unlikely to occur naturally in your daily life. Yet evidence from an off-beat fitness practice called "laughter yoga" suggests that even pretending to laugh could garner you some of the same benefits!

Laughter yoga was launched in 1995 by Indian physician Dr Madan Kataria, and it is not "yoga" in any conventional sense. Though the two practices share a focus on breathing and laughter yoga may incorporate some light stretching, you will spend most of a laughter yoga class not posing but doing a variety of laughing "exercises."

You will probably start out by breathing deeply while repeating laugh-like syllables like "ho" and "ha" to get your diaphragm moving, then engage in playful activities designed to encourage this simulated laughter turn into real laughter.

These could include pretending to drive a laughter-powered car, imitating a lion, greeting your fellow laughers with a guffaw instead of a handshake, or mixing a "laughter cocktail" in imaginary glasses.

Regular participants in these laughing sessions have reported better energy throughout the day, an uplifted mood, and a better ability to cope with stress. Laughter also tends to break down our typical defensive habits, so many laughter yoga participants have also reported less self consciousness and a greater willingness to be open and connect with people.

Evidence suggests that a laughter yoga intervention was as effective as a traditional exercise intervention at treating depression in the elderly. Another laughter yoga study done on IT professionals found that its participants expericenced significant drops in their blood pressure and cortisol levels, while a Chinese study that used a similar simulated laughter protocol also found that stress and cortisol levels in its participants decreased significantly.

Whether you utilize a formal practice like laughter yoga or just make an effort to incorporate more humor into your day, laughing more could definitely help keep your mood and morale up as you continue on your journey towards a healthier lifestyle. Feel free to use this handy-dandy locator to go looking for a laughter yoga club near you if you're at all curious!


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