Sunday, September 1, 2013
I was inspired to write this blog after viewing Sydney Bell’s BodyRespect page this week (https://bodyrespect.wordpress.com/). The focus on increasing exercise/joyful movement caught my attention. I agree that if we can find some type of exercise or movement that brings us joy, we can improve our health and increase confidence in our body.
I have never been someone who has enjoyed exercising. I have not bought a gym membership in years because I pretty much know that I will not follow through with going to the gym. I would like to lose weight, but life happens. Excuses come easily. Energy and motivation are nowhere to be found; especially after a long day of work. For years I have prided myself at looking out for my mental health and said I would worry about my physical health later. Almost seven years ago, I heard about laughter clubs and realized that laughter is an activity where I can improve both my mental health and my physical health. It has become my “joyful movement” and a fun source of exercise. My self-esteem has improved as my sense of fulfillment and accomplishment grows every time I share therapeutic laughter with others.
Laughter clubs and therapeutic laughter programs provide participants with the opportunity to interact with others in a healthy and non-judgemental environment. Participants are encouraged to engage in healthy breathing, gentle stretching, and therapeutic laughter exercises. Laughter exercises mimic things we do and/or encounter in everyday life and we laugh because life can be ridiculous and silly. Many of the exercises involve participants moving around if they are physically able to do so. One exercise involves laughing as you start a lawn mower and drive it around; another exercise has participants laughing as we waddle like penguins. Other exercises can be performed while seated and participants move whatever body parts they are comfortable moving and able to manage. Laughter is universal; we can laugh with others whether we share the same language, cultural context, or interests. Laughter clubs are supportive and good-natured, with only the positive being allowed and you don’t even need a sense of humour to benefit! Some of the groups I have shared therapeutic laughter with include people with brain injury, homeless women, incarcerated men and women, seniors, students, and corporate professionals. Research shows that there are many benefits including improved pain tolerance, better cardiovascular function, boosted immune function, elevated mood, exercise of the internal organs, decreased stress, a better outlook on life, improved sense of humour, and better morale. Laughter has been referred to as an “internal jogging of the organs”. Various laughter exercises work out different muscles of our body.
I am a strong advocate of practicing self-care. I have found that laughter is one of the best ways of reducing stress, alleviating physical pain, and taking my mind off of my worries. It also gets me out and exercising in a joyful manner. I have had participants join laughter club for numerous reasons; an opportunity and place to add more laughter to their life; strategies to manage depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders; wanting to add more fun to their routine; getting some exercise; and meeting new friends.
For the last few years, Certified Laughter Leaders at the Advanced Workshop have been focusing some of our attention on “movement”; engaging in music, movement and laughter therapy. This to me equals moving around with joy! This year I am presenting on laughter therapy and brain injury. I regularly share laughter with brain injury rehabilitation clients and their joy of participating shows on their faces and in their enthusiasm!