Laughter-induced therapies are becoming very popular around the world, where laughter is used as tool to help people with mental disorders to alleviate their symptoms.
Laughter yoga can be practiced as one of the approaches in managing IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) symptoms. Many people with IBS experience abdominal pain and change in the bowel movements triggered by stress, anxiety and depression, because there is a strong connection between the gut and the brain. Laughter yoga may be beneficial in diminishing adverse gut symptoms. Laughter yoga combines laughter with breathing exercises and is supposed to oxygenate the body and the brain giving a boost of energy and lowering the stress levels.
The creator of laughter yoga is Dr. Madan Kataria who teaches it around the world with great health outcomes. Laughter yoga is scientifically proven method in decreasing stress and negative thinking and improves the mood by releasing feel-good chemicals, endorphins. Laughter yoga has also been shown to decrease cortisol and epinephrine levels (stress hormones) in the blood and strengthen the immune system. In fact, when we laugh, the body cannot differentiate if the laugh is real or fake, so laughing for no reason can be a good way of improving your health.
Common saying “Laughter is the best medicine” has been proven by the new study recently published in Middle East Journal of Digestive Disease that looked at the severity of anxiety and GI symptoms among 3 groups: laughter yoga group, anti-anxiety medication group and control group (the symptomatic treatment). The results showed that people in the laughter yoga group experienced greater reduction in IBS symptoms compared to the other 2 groups. The decrease in anxiety symptoms was seen in both groups: laughter yoga and anti-anxiety medication group. It tells us that laughter yoga therapy can be one of approaches in reducing IBS symptoms.
When you look at the sessions of laughing yoga, you may find it bizarre and silly. However, overcoming first sessions will help to stick around for longer. If you find it uncomfortable to laugh by yourself, do it with your friends and/or kids and it will make it easier and more fun.
There are a lot of free laughing yoga videos on YouTube if you are not ready to participate in the group. You can watch videos and do exercises alone if you are shy. In fact, many laughter yoga instructors lead Zoom meeting and you don’t have to show your face but still participate in group sessions.
Even though there are many studies showing great benefits of laughing, more research is needed to compare long term effect of laughing on specific mental disorders. Laughter therapy cannot be substituted for medical management of mental disorders. However, there is a potential in applying laughter therapies together with conventional treatments, since it is inexpensive and simple intervention that doesn’t require much training and can’t be performed by people of all ages. Besides, there are no side effects of laughing too hard.
1. Tavakoli T, Davoodi N, Jafar Tabatabaee TS, Rostami Z, Mollaei H, Salmani F, Ayati S, Tabrizi S. Comparison of Laughter Yoga and Anti-Anxiety Medication on Anxiety and Gastrointestinal Symptoms of Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Middle East J Dig Dis. 2019 Oct;11(4):211-217. doi: 10.15171/mejdd.2019.151. Epub 2019 Nov 5. PMID: 31824624; PMCID: PMC6895849.
2. Van der Wal CN, Kok RN. Laughter-inducing therapies: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Soc Sci Med. 2019 Jul;232:473-488. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.02.018. Epub 2019 Mar 5. PMID: 31029483.
3. Yim J. Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2016 Jul;239(3):243-9. doi: 10.1620/tjem.239.243. PMID: 27439375.