People say that laughter is the best medicine. We may have heard of instances where people who are happy and joyful heal themselves naturally. To gain insight into why happiness and laughter is a super food for the brain, we have to understand that our brain craves for this feeling or sentiment. Humor and laughter work like natural endorphins that are natural stress relievers. Our brain functions better when it is not covered by a fog of worry and stress.
Studies found that complex images like works of art, or a group of animals, fire neuron activity in the brain. The firing up of the neurons when exposed to complex information, that requires processing, creates an opioid like effect, triggering a cascade of activity that bathes the neurons in feel-good neurotransmitters and other chemicals. In the same way, humor, happiness and laughter yield a similar kind of satisfaction. With puzzles and other problem solving scenarios we experience an “aha” moment, while with laughter we experience a “haha“ moment.
In 2014, research conducted in California demonstrated that elderly subjects who watched funny videos experienced improvement in their ability to learn and retain new information. This shows that something deeply intrinsic within is triggered by these situations. What we call joy, happiness, bliss or ecstasy are nothing but deeper levels of joyfulness.
The question that comes up is “Does laughter heal us?” That question deserves a deeper look. It depends on the source from which laughter arises. If we are laughing because the doctor prescribed it as a medicine for healing then it can sound ridiculous because we will be falsely “haha”-ing everywhere, which may make us seem psychotic and insensitive. But on the other hand, if we feel truly joyful and happy within, laughter becomes a manifestation or consequence of that joy.
What then is “joy”? Being joyful means you are deeply connected within and not living life on the surface. If we are in a certain state of pleasantness within us, a smile will naturally beam on our face. There is not a need for external stimulus for that kind of laughter or smile. Health also becomes a natural outcome of this state because in joy there is little or no stress, and the body functions at its best.
Joy is not something one has to do. It is a natural outcome of whether we are connected to the life source of who we are. It is our default state. How do we connect to that life source and become joyful by default? That is where the science of yoga becomes relevant. Yoga is not just a bunch of posture or asanas. It is a scientific method of aligning the mind, body, emotion and energy to find the deepest expression of joy and make joy our constant companion.
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