Like a lot of exercise classes, it begins by signing a waiver. But this waiver doesn’t address injuries. Instead, we promise to leave our inhibitions at home.
“It just says you’re not afraid to be silly,” says Zeb Sullivan, PhD., the instructor.
We’re also asked to rate our levels of happiness, stress, boredom and energy. Sullivan says we’ll rate them again after the class.
“Okay, we’ll start with some breathing exercises and stretches.”
So far, this looks and feels like your typical yoga class. But it certainly doesn’t sound like it. As we exhale, Sullivan instructs us to let out a big belly laugh. At first, the laughter is a little forced. But that’s okay.
“You don’t have to be in a good mood to start laughing, and then you actually become in a good mood from the laughter,” says Sullivan.
Some guided techniques also help us loosen up. If waddling around campus like a duck doesn’t get you laughing, maybe pretending you’ve won the lottery will. Research shows the body doesn’t know the difference between real and fake laughter. Either one is good for you.
“Laughter has been shown to decrease cortisol,” says Sullivan. “Cortisol leads to free fatty acids, which can cause heart attack or stroke.”
Laughter has also been shown to strengthen the immune system and we’re actually working up a little sweat while we’re laughing.
“We’re moving our bodies, our heart rate went up, our breathing increased and we’re having a blast doing it.”
And remember those evaluations? We rate our mood after class too. Sullivan says most students see a marked improvement.
“They say, ‘Wow, I have never felt this stress free, this energetic, this happy.’”
We certainly feel better. And there’s no doubt, a little laughter beats going to the doctor.