BOSTON — When it comes to stress relief, laughter really is good medicine, according to experts at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.
“It definitely decreases stress hormones,” said Laura Malloy, director of yoga programs at the Institute.
In fact, laughter yoga is now offered there as part of a new health trend honoring the mind-body connection.
“The strategies we’re focused on use the mind to get the brain to turn off the body’s stress response,” said Peg Baim, clinical director of training at the Institute.
The science behind mind-body medicine is surprisingly robust.
“The more that your brain signals the body to go into the stress response, the harder your cells have to work,” said Baim. “It sounded like mumbo jumbo, except we kept seeing people do these behaviors, and they kept getting better.”
Step one is daily meditation.
“It’s really growing a part of the brain that lets you regulate your own thinking,” said Baim. “How you think is very important, it’s critical, as to how you influence your body, turning off that stress response.”
Step two is daily exercise. You can go the traditional route or try something new, like laughter yoga.
“You kind of have to fake it ’til you make it, but once we started laughing, it was a ball,” said Jolene Jacquart, who tried the laughter yoga class.
“Laughter yoga needs be done for 15 to 20 minutes to have the health benefits. It also boosts our immune system,” said Malloy.
In fact, according to Malloy, kids laugh an estimated 400 times daily, whereas adults average just 15 times a day.
Step three is to get enough sleep.
“Sleep is ground zero. The brain really restores itself,” said Baim.