It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and it can also be one of the most stressful with the added pressure of planning the perfect holiday season for your family.
While there are lots of ways to manage stress – with yoga classes, meditation, cardio workouts and others – almost all of them need to be scheduled, require a significant time commitment, and in many cases, require us to leave our homes for a class or a gym. Fortunately, one of the most effective tools for de-stressing is right within us, and it’s FREE. We simply need to tap into it. The tool is…laughter!
Melanie Galioto of Your Smile Yoga in Chestnut Hill, PA, tells us that laughter has some amazing physiological benefits, and she teaches The Laughter Solution, a course that instructs people how to laugh by themselves.
“The benefits of laughter are tremendous,” she says. “A happy chemistry begins with the release of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. It helps lower blood pressure and boosts your immune system. And,” she adds, “ten minutes of laughter can bring up to two hours of pain relief.”
Even after three minutes of laughing, Melanie says, we start seeing health benefits. “In three minutes, the production of the stress hormone cortisol is reduced, and you start to see your stress levels drop. You even start to see cardio benefits.”
Because the thought of laughing alone can feel uncomfortable, she teaches her laughter course in her Philadelphia-based studio to help her clients feel at ease.
“Once you get past the weirdness of laughing on your own,” Melanie says, “you realize it’s pretty intense and amazing.”
To begin, she says, we have to just decide in the moment that we want to laugh. “That helps you overcome ‘not laughing.’ It’s a choice to be happy or sad. Choosing to laugh is the first step.”
But if just “choosing to laugh,” feels daunting, Melanie generously shares her favorite techniques for laughing solo.
Laugh as you prepare your favorite hot beverage.
“If you’re a tea drinker, there’s ‘Tea Steeping Laughter.’ You take the tea bag, and instead of letting it steep, you move it up and down and say ‘ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.’ If you’re a coffee drinker, you can say it while you’re waiting for your Keurig to brew.”
Laugh while you’re stuck in traffic.
“If someone cuts us off, we can choose to be angry and blow our horn. Or we can just honk our ‘laughter horn.’ I do it in the car driving my kids to school. I have to make a left turn onto a busy street, and people don’t always let us turn. So instead of getting mad, I say, ‘Let’s blow our laughter horn.’ And soon, we’re all laughing.”
Instead of eating to combat boredom or stress, try laughing.
“Sometimes we go to the fridge and snack because we think we’re hungry, but often we are just bored. If you attach laughter to it…if you decide to laugh any time you open the door of the fridge, you find you’re being present to the moment. You’re mindful of what you’re doing, and you start to feel good because of the ‘happy chemistry.’ And you may realize you’re not hungry, but bored – and then you won’t snack.”