It is a well-established fact in neuroscience that the brain does not know the difference between real and fake laughter, and that it responds to either one in the same way by providing us with all sorts of amazing and beneficial results when we laugh. However, when it comes to matters of the heart, it could be the case that the heart may be a little bit more in the know than the brain – how’s that for a paradox of sorts?
In laughter yoga, we laugh for the sake of laughing and to enjoy all of the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits that it has to offer. That is, we simulate laughter, or make ourselves laugh, to catalyze various bodily functions, thought patterns, and mindful states that are all beneficial to each of our own individual paths and journeys. One of the physical systems that laughing affects is the cardiovascular system, or as I like to call it the bodily system that is at the “heart” of it all, because the main organ of the cardiovascular system is – you guessed it – the heart!
When we laugh, the heart responds in much the same way as it does when we take part in physical exercise. This is the reason that after a good round of belly laughs with friends, you may feel like you just got a good workout in. The heart rate rises causing increased blood flow and delivery of oxygen throughout the body, breathing quickens, and you may even start sweating a bit! As a result of this, laughter provides us with many of the same cardiovascular benefits as physical exercise does, and in turn, can help to improve our cardiovascular health when practiced regularly.
At this point, you may be wondering what this has to do with the heart differentiating between self-generated and spontaneous laughter. As it turns out, based on a 2018 study conducted in New Zealand on the cardiovascular effects of simulated laughter (when we make ourselves laugh for no reason) versus spontaneous laughter (when laughter is stimulated by something humorous), the heart responds slightly differently when one is taking part in simulated laughter than when they are taking part in spontaneous laughter…so perhaps the heart does recognize the difference between real and fake laughter?
This study found that the way in which the heart responds to laughter is extremely similar to the way it responds to physical exercise, in that when we laugh, our heart rate increases and our heart rate variability (a measurement having to do with how the lengths of time between consecutive heartbeats differ) decreases. Furthermore, the amount of change in those factors was greater in response to simulated laughter than it was in response to spontaneous laughter.
In a nutshell, this indicates that the heart gets a slightly more vigorous “workout” from simulated laughter than it does from spontaneous laughter. In turn, the same cardiovascular benefits that we get from exercise, such as increased heart health and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, may be experienced through laughter yoga, and since laughter yoga is simulated and sustained laughter, those benefits may be more pronounced than they would be in someone relying on spontaneous laughter for those same benefits.
What a magnificent finding for laughter yogis, and what a compelling reason to start practicing laughter yoga if you aren’t already! We now have even more evidence that laughter yoga, or simulated laughter, can help us to laugh our way to health and happiness, so if you’re already practicing – great! Your heart is thanking you! If not, you can easily start today to experience the heart-healthy benefits of laughter yoga along with many other benefits for your mind, body, and spirit!
To learn more, follow along with my blog and videos and experience all of the benefits of laughter yoga for yourself! Sending love and laughter to all of you!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor a medical professional. The information presented on this site is for educational purposes only. One should always consult with their doctor or medical professional before taking on any sort of new exercise program.