Are you looking for a simple, fun and meaningful way to volunteer within your community? What better way to spend your time than giving the gift of laughter to senior citizens? Laughter yoga is a feel good activity chalk full of health benefits for the elderly and for you too. Best of all, everyone can take part and benefit from laughter yoga no matter what physical or cognitive limitations one may have may. This makes it the perfect activity for seniors living in assisted living or nursing home communities.
Volunteering to lead a group in laughter yoga can be a fun, easy and rewarding experience for all involved. The basic concept of laughter yoga is to laugh either voluntarily or spontaneously typically in a group setting. There is usually a facilitator guiding the group through creative exercises which may include such things as clapping, raising hands in the air, laughing on cue and focusing on breath. Don’t let the word “yoga” rattle you if it’s not something you are familiar with. In this instance yoga mainly refers to the mental state rather than physical poses.
Why it Works
Laughter is contagious, especially in group settings. Studies show that the sound of laughter triggers others to laugh much more frequently than that provoked by a joke or funny movie. Whether it’s chuckles or a full on belly laugh that tickles your funny bone, it can be difficult not to join in when surrounded by these sounds.
7 Benefits Laughter Yoga can Provide
Implementing this activity on a regular basis may have a greater impact than one might assume. Studies have proven that any type of regular laughter (even forced smiles and giggles) have the ability to improve cognitive, physical and emotional health.
- Increases endorphins boosting mood, energy and well being
- Reduces stress
- Boosts short-term memory
- Decreases feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety
- Increases feelings of trust
- Helps regulate blood pressure and pulse
- Promotes bonding and friendships
Mix, Match and Create Your own Class
There’s no one way to structure a laughter yoga class so go ahead and take creative license! Half the fun is going with the flow, observing what is working and modifying the program to fit the group. The more methods you are familiar with, the more options you’ll have to pull from your “bag of tricks”.
- Sit in a circle. An important part of the process is for everyone to see each other’s faces.
- Introduce yourself and the purpose of the class before you begin. This often makes a big difference in people’s receptiveness. Knowing what you are doing and why you are doing it brings the activity purpose and meaning.
- Practice deep breathing. This helps release deep belly laughs.
- Chant. Chanting positive mantras such as, “Be happy, be free” sets the tone and helps give others the mindset that this is going to be a positive experience. Speak in confidence and steer clear of presenting doubt. This can be especially important for those who have dementia who often mimic your attitude and hang on to key words.
- Try out various laughs and ask residents to join in. From tiny tee hee hee’s to deep ho ho ha’s, experiment with various sounds.
- Be playful. Incorporate childlike playfulness such as making funny faces, clapping and raising hands in the air.
- Set a goal to laugh for 10-15 minutes. According to laughter yoga’s philosophy, one must laugh for a minimum of 10-15 minutes to reap full benefits.
- Have fun with it! Full benefits aside, any amount of laughter is a positive thing. Even seniors who simply observe can still be stimulated by sight, sound and sense of positivity.