If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sending such a text because you quite literally did laugh your F-A-O, tell me you didn’t feel even the slightest sensation of relief in the moments that followed? As clichéd as it sounds, when it comes to stress, depression or many of life’s mental annoyances, laughter is probably one of the best remedies out there – and the best part is it’s a renewable resource that’s absolutely FREE. True, it’s pretty common knowledge but there’s scientific proof to back that thang up. Years of gelotology data (the study of laughter) and its effects on the mind and body have proven what we all know to be true: Laughter is one helluva drug.
Scientifically speaking, cracking the hell up has a relaxing effect on the body, relieving mental stress, as well as having a lengthy soothing effect on the muscles. Brain-wise, laughter opens the floodgates for those euphoric chemicals known as endorphins, which are also known for the temporary alleviation of pain. In addition, a hysterical laughter is thought to improve the function of blood flow, and acts as nature’s own defense against cardiovascular disease. Oh yeah, it’s also been proven to boost the immune system.
When feeling stressed or deep in the doldrums, have you ever caught yourself thinking “I just need a good laugh”? Then pondering on some of the most hysterical ish you’ve ever seen, experienced or done, in the quest to experience a mere trace of that euphoria brought on by said hilariousness? Well the wait is ova! One can bring the healing elixir of laughter into their lives on demand by practicing a li’l sumthin called Laughing Meditation. As a former practitioner of yoga, walking, eating & laughing meditation, I personally recommend the latter, and the DailyOm’s exposition of the exercise nails the mystical nail directly on its ethereal head:
“Many people might be surprised to think of laughter as a form of meditation. Yet not only is laughing meditation one of the simplest forms of meditation, but also it is a very powerful one. The physical act of laughing is one of the few actions involving the body, emotions, and the soul. When we laugh, we give ourselves over to the immediacy of the present moment. We also are able to momentarily transcend minor physical and mental stresses. Practiced in the morning, laughing meditation can lend a joyful quality to the entire day. Practiced in the evening, laughing meditation is a potent relaxant that has been known to inspire pleasant dreams. Laughter also can help open our eyes to previously unnoticed absurdities that can make life seem less serious.”
The Practice: Mediation + Hilarity
Meditation is an age-old practice taking many forms, with the ultimate function that can be likened to a form of mental & spiritual housekeeping. It’s generally defined as the art of attaining a non-judgmental thoughtful awareness through the process of gradually silencing all mental chatter, which lets face it, is the primary source of stress. Worrying about what could’ve been, what should be or what might happen are some of the anxiety producing thoughts that fend off mental well-being and prevent folks from the gift of the now, the present.
The act of laughter combined with the practice of mediation can manifest in a number of forms – either individually or in a group setting – but is often practiced in an oscillating approach from silent mediation to gut busting laughter. The following example is a simple technique I’ve found side-splitting satisfaction with in the past:
1) Sit (or lay) in silent contemplation with eyes closed while taking deep intentional breaths. Recall those things that are guaranteed to at least elicit a decent chuckle, and let the humorous sensation take hold (as you can imagine, doing this in a group setting is uncontrollably contagious). Let it all out. Kick, flail your arms, scream; let your laughter manifest itself in its purest form. This unadulterated outburst can last for about as long as you can stand it, or be dictated by a preset time limit.
2) This humor driven state of elation is followed by an equal amount of time allowing oneself to settle back into the exercise of deep breathing and the return of quiet, thoughtful awareness.
3) Repeat as steps 1 & 2 as needed.
Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.