As someone who was raised on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, it was only natural that I would eventually become certified as a laughter yoga Leader. A simple search online for the benefits of laughter provides you with oodles of research on how it can boost health, quicken healing times, and be used as a tool for preventative medicine. Even more research will speak to laughter’s positive benefits related to the release of dopamine and oxytocin. Laughter also interrupts the cycle of negativity and improves resilience.
Still more research will suggest laughter is great for reducing stress and tension and allows individuals to better moderate behaviour and relate to other individuals around them. All this information just supports the old adage that laughter just might be the best medicine!
For the past two years I have seen the many benefits laughter yoga can bring to all kinds of individuals. One of my regular sessions takes place at a long-term care home in Niagara Falls. I regularly have 50 or more residents, visitors, and staff joining in these sessions with great success. One individual with dementia and chronic pain in particular often states during the sessions, “I am having so much fun!” In addition, staff often mention that residents continue to smile throughout the day, even if they don’t remember why. The positive emotion evoked by the session remains with the individuals well after the session has ended.
At the end of each laughter yoga session I ask the participants to join me in a small meditation during which I ask them to make a commitment to contribute to world laughter, and to send out vibes of positive energy into the world and to be grateful for all the small moments of joy and laughter we can experience every day.
So, how can you, as a professional in the field of recreation, contribute to world laughter? During National Humour Month in April, make a commitment to introduce more programs based in humour therapy at your facility. Here are a few ideas you can implement:
- Humour board – post daily jokes, funny photos, or amusing stories to a common board and invite residents and family to contribute items to this board.
- Tongue twisters – download a list of tongue twisters, or create your own, and attempt to say them in a group setting. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself rolling on the rug having a rip-roaring ruckus!
- Laughing club – form a laughing club and invite a laughter yoga leader to your facility, or get certified yourself, and experience the benefits of laughing for no reason!
- Watch funny things – get a group together, or as a one-on-one activity, and watch funny videos on YouTube, an episode of a sitcom, or find an old episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos.
- Share funny stories – gather a group of people and ask them to share their best and funniest stories. Alternatively, ask people to read funny anecdotes from the Internet.
- Laughing bucket/basket – create a laughing bucket or basket that can be filled with jokes, props (clown noses, rubber chickens, etc.), or anything else that makes you laugh. Then invite staff, residents, and visitors to randomly engage with these items to add humour to quiet or unassuming moments each day.
- Staff flash mob – prearrange with staff to break into dance when a specific song is played. The movement doesn’t have to be coordinated, just allow everyone to engage in a random dance party when they hear the music.
- Improv night – provide props and prompts to participants and ask them to perform skits in front of each other.
- Comedy club – visit a local comedy club, or ask a local comedian to perform at your facility.
- Laughter journal – you’ve heard of a gratitude journal, well, why not a laughter journal? Write jokes that make you laugh, save comic strips and glue them into the books, add funny photos or drawings; if it makes you smile or laugh, include it in your journal!
- BONUS: Talent show – host a talent show night and encourage residents, staff, and family to show off something that makes them unique. Have people sing duets, perform a group lip-sync, play the spoons. The only limit is creativity.
Lastly, just remember that life is better when you are laughing.