Fighting the virus with laughter

We all know that laughter is the best medicine, but can it help us with the COVID-19 virus? According to Australia’s leading laughter expert and Southbanker, Merv Neal, the answer is, “yes!”

Best known locally from his weekly laughter yoga classes at the Boyd Community Hub, which have moved online due to COVID-19, the CEO of Laughter Yoga Australia is determined to keep spreading his message of laughter health during the pandemic.

We are more likely to become ill when our immune system is not at full strength. While many of the people who are dying from the present virus are elderly, or experiencing a current chronic illness, the common circumstance for both of these groups is a compromised immune system.

Working as a laughter therapist and holistic health practitioner, Merv said he had seen firsthand how laughter could assist the sick, as well as prevent illness by promoting better health.

“Our immune system becomes weaker when we’re stressed. Loss of income, changed working conditions, and life in lockdown will only make the situation worse unless we adopt some coping mechanisms. Laughter is an aerobic workout that can be done anywhere and anytime,” he said.

Merv provided five ways that sustained and unconditional laughter could help fight illness:

Boosts the immune system: When we laugh from our belly, the movement of the diaphragm moves the lymph around our bodies. It increases lymphocytes and killer cells to help fight disease, and in particular cancer;

Reduces stress: Laughter produces serotonin that helps to reduce cortisol levels. It relaxes the muscles in the body to allow the blood to deliver oxygen to the body cells to provide energy, and the brain to provide clarity of thoughts;

Expels air more efficiently from the lungs: Laughter is similar to prolonged meditation and deep breathing exercises. The dynamic exertion of the diaphragm expels more stale air and fluids from the bottom of our lungs. The COVID-19 virus attacks the respiratory system;

Provides a positive mindset: Laughter puts us into the present moment. We can’t be anxious or depressed when we laugh. Anxiety levels are up at present but depression may result in the longer term;

Develops a sense of humour: As critical as our other five senses are, a sense of humour can get us through tough times. Being able to laugh in spite of situations can help us to achieve a sense of control and ability to cope better.

The Southbank Laughter Club has gone online until the Boyd Community Hub reopens. It runs every Tuesday night from 6pm to 7pm •

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