A new study has shown that Parkinson’s patients and their carers may experience significant benefits from laughter yoga.
What is Laughter Yoga?
Laughter yoga is a relatively new exercise regime that gained some popularity in the nineties.
It’s a technique that involves laughing - which is forced to start with but can end up in real laughter. It can be practised either alone or in groups, and is said to have benefits for those with chronic diseases and low moods.
Laughter yoga is not based on telling jokes or watching funny films, but around exercising. Participants begin by sounding out laughter noises such as ‘ha, ha, ha’, and ‘hee, hee, hee’ in different patterns and volumes. It’s based on the concept that the body cannot tell the difference between fake and real laughter therefore people receive its mental and physical benefits.
Breathing techniques are incorporated too, which are known to relieve anxiety and promote calmness.
The Benefits of Laughter Yoga
Laughter therapy may bring benefits such as:
⇑ Boosting the immune system
⇑ Boosting oxygen intake
⇑ Relaxing the body and mind
⇑ Triggering endorphin release
⇑ Relieving pain
⇑ Stimulating the heart and lungs
⇑ Balancing blood pressure
⇑ Improving alertness, memory and creativity
What Was The Study?
Other studies have shown laughter can improve the mood of healthy individuals and cancer patients. For example, a medical literature review found correlations between humour and comfort levels in patients with cancer. It was found to lessen anxiety and strengthen immune systems.
The recent study ‘Laughter Yoga, Adults Living with Parkinson’s Disease, and Caregivers: A Pilot Study’ explored the relationship between Parkinson’s and laughter yoga as little research to date had taken place on Parkinson’s patients.
Study participants were found at six Parkinson’s disease support groups in Southern California. In total 47 adults with Parkinson’s and 38 caregivers took part in a 45 minute laughter yoga session which was conducted by a certified laughter yoga teacher.
The outcomes were measured on the ‘How Do You Feel’ form, a psychometric test that utilises a 1-10 scale of questions about well-being, immediately after the session. The questions included scores on enthusiasm, energy levels, mood states, optimism, stress levels, level of friendship with the group, level of breath awareness, level of muscular and mental relaxation and the ability to laugh without a reason.
What were the results?
The results showed that laughter yoga made statistically significant improvements in the mood of Parkinson’s suffers and care givers.
Researchers suggest that clinicians should think about using laughter yoga to support co-morbid low mood conditions in patients. Caregivers should consider laughter yoga to support their patients and for their own benefit too.
It’s no surprise that low mood affects people with chronic or terminal illness. Boosting the mood of patients and their caregivers is essential to improve quality of life and avoid illness such as depression.
Laughter yoga is free from medication, it’s low cost and does not require physical strength. If it can boost physical well-being and the mental state of people suffering from illness it should be welcomed. We all deserve a little happiness, particularly those struggling with incurable illness.
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