Last year, when I was working at the Dempsey Center, a local cancer wellness service center, there was a workshop called “laughter yoga”. I didn’t have the opportunity to attend, but it was such a change in the atmosphere. Typically, the atmosphere at the Dempsey Center is calming and heart-felt, but on that day as I walked with clients to and from session, we could here the participants working themselves into fits of laughter. It added a special spark to the atmosphere that day, and a reminder that even though we may be faced with cancer, we still deserve the benefits of laughter.
When we are facing hard times, it can be challenging to find humor. Yet if we do find it, it helps to bring a little more levity to our situation, it helps to break some of the tension we feel. It helps us tolerate the unknown because for a moment we have lost ourselves in a good chuckle. I recall in the more stressful moments of the treatment process, if I was able to find something to joke or laugh about, it helped me cope better.
Here are some of the benefits of laughter: it lowers stress hormones, increases immunity, offers pain relief, plus it helps your organs get more oxygen, which causes the brain to release more endorphins. Of course we can’t forget how it improves mood and creates a sense of community if you are laughing with others. Even the Mayo Clinic concurs with these health benefits. As a cancer survivor, anything that can improve my immunity catches my attention.
Since I did not have the opportunity to attend the laughter yoga workshop, I decided to search YouTube to see what might be available. The search yielded these great images that even just scanning them made me smile. My favorite video that I came across was done by Bianca Spears. I liked it because she had a nice blend of explanation of the technique in combination with actually experiencing it . Bianca states that one of the reasons why it ends up being a workout is because it uses yogic breathing to make the laughing sounds, and because the body cannot differentiate between real and simulated laughter, the health effects are the same. If you would like to check it out, click here to get the link.
There is a lovely Jewish proverb I stumbled upon several months ago, that captures this sentiment so deftly.
As soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul
No matter where you are at this point in your life, I hope that you find those moments of laughter, to bring a little sparkle back into your life. It might just depend on it.
– Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor, and a former oncology counselor at the Dempsey Center. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing from a life threatening illness or injury. Through Creative Transformations, Stephanie works with people in person and online to offer cancer coaching, a DIY Individual Art Therapy program to enhance any healing work you are undertaking; workshops; and this weekly blog. Sign up today so you never miss one by visiting our website, Creative Transformations, where you will also find the links to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.