Try It Tuesday: Is Laughter Yoga the Best Medicine?

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We all know the saying “fake it till you make it” and this is the concept behind laughter yoga, the newest and perhaps most unique form of relaxation out there. In a session of laughter yoga a group of yogis gather around to laugh at each other through some interesting  (aka weird) exercises in order to make you feel happy. No matter what the exercise, you have to force yourself to laugh (though the exercises should make you laugh themselves) in order for your body to perceive that you are calm and elated. Laughter yoga operates on the theory that fake laughter brings all of the beneficial effects of real laughter. According to the Laughter Yoga University (which I am sure is more accredited than Trump University):

“The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.”

So what are the physiological and psychological benefits of laughter yoga? Scientists can agree on 5:

  1. Good mood- Laughter releases endorphins that help the brain to calm down and become more relaxed
  2. Healthy exercise beats stress- Laughter yoga does encompass some of the hallmark stretches and breathing exercises as seen in regular yoga which means that it is in fact exercise
  3. Health benefits- Research has shown that yoga reduces stress and strengthens the immune system
  4. Quality of life- Laughter is a positive energy and will help you attract positive people in improve your life
  5. Positive attitude in difficult times- Laughter helps to create a positive state of mind to deal with negative situations

Well those all sound good to me, so I decided to try it out for myself. I decided to watch a laughter yoga video (there weren’t any classes in my area) and stumbled upon this gem on YouTube which you all can watch for yourselves.  The video depicts a training session held by Robert Rivest who is a certified laughter yoga instructor.

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One of the exercises in Rivest’s video. Pointing you finger at your hand is one of the funniest things in the world in the context of laughter yoga.

The Video

The video itself lasts for about 22 minutes and details numerous exercises that are included in a laughter yoga session. The video begins with some standard yoga breathing exercises and then becomes something you have to see to believe. Though the video is punctuated with more breathing exercises, that is the only similarity to actual yoga. Instead of downward dog, there’s rowing laughter in which you sit in a boat and pretend to row. Instead of child’s pose, you actually act like a child playing on a merry-go-round. Here are some of the best, most absurd, exercises:

  • Peek-a-boo laughter in which you laugh behind your hands and then play peek-a-boo with a fellow yogi
  • Cowboy laughter in which you laugh while spinning a pretend lasso and jumping up and down
  • Credit card bill laughter when you laugh while reading all the money you wasted on Starbucks
  • Hot soup laughter in which you spill hot soup on yourself but laugh about it instead of seeking medical attention
  • Finger tickle laughter which involves tickling other people’s fingers to get them to laugh
  • Hot sand laughter where you pretend that you are walking on hot sand and that your third degree burns are funny
  • Bumble bee laughter which involves you buzzing around like a bumble bee while laughing and looking for your next victim to sting
  • Volcano laughter where the group gets together to form one giant volcano but instead of spewing lava spews laughter

Throughout all of these exercises in order to get the group back to baseline Rivest make them chant “very good, very good, yay!” while clapping. There are literally no avenues in which you cannot be or feel happy in this program.

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Rivest’s laughter yoga is ‘mmm mmm good.

Did it Work?

I was actually very surprised at how calm and relaxed I felt after completing the exercises. While laughter yoga focuses on utilizing fake laughter, I found myself genuinely laughing at how ridiculous every exercise was, but hey that’s the name of the game. It still makes me laugh just writing about it, which is a good sign.

When I first began watching the video and performing the yoga I had a mild headache which disappeared after a few minutes of laughter. By the end of all of the different laughs, I felt very peaceful which seems antithetical given that I had just forced myself to laugh and be hyper for the past twenty minutes.

The biggest surprise was that the end results felt a lot like actual yoga. You would think that meditative yoga would lead to different thoughts and feelings than laughing and acting ridiculous, but I found the two to be quite similar. Laughter yoga left me feeling just as relaxed as traditional yoga poses but without the shame of being inflexible.

On a side note, the yoga, in addition to its relaxing effect, made me feel a little sleepy. I would have hypothesized that the exercises would provide more energy due to all the laughter but it seems as if the relaxing effects were more prominent. It reminds me of how sleepy I get when watching late night comedy shows (team Coco all the way). Is there a deeper reason for the existence of late night?

Will it Work For Me?

If you take laughter yoga seriously (an oxymoron I know) then yes, you should feel the same results. Even if you go into it thinking that the exercises are flat out absurd you should still find yourself laughing along due to this absurdity. It is also true that laughter is contagious so if you practice laughter yoga in person with others you are sure to feed off of their energy and feel happiness without even trying. When Rivest asked the participants in the video how the yoga made them feel here are there responses:

  • “glorious”
  • “victorious”
  • “full of love”
  • “relaxing”
  • “very happy”
  • “open”
  • “peaceful”

I am sure that if you give laughter yoga a chance then you will feel some of these emotions as well.

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Rivest’s rowing laughter exercise. They’re gonna need a bigger boat.

What Does the Research Say?

Because laughter yoga is a relatively new practice, there have only been a handful of studies investigating the health benefits. One study out of Bangalore India found that participants of laughter yoga had a significant drop in heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (a stress hormone). They also found that positive emotions increased by 17% and negative emotions decreased by 27%. A study conducted in the United States also saw that self efficacy (the ability to organize and carry out actions) increased in participants of laughter yoga.

Final Thoughts

Laughter yoga may seem ridiculous, but it was designed to be this way. I am sure we can all attest to feeling better after a good chuckle, so why not try to recreate this feeling for a longer period of time? Trying out laughter yoga surely will not hurt you, but it can leave you with some good stories, and laughs, to tell your friends.

Try it Tuesday: Do Adult Coloring Books Actually Work?

Last week was a stressful week. It was the last five days of Obama as President and the dread of a Trump presidency started to sink in. With all this stress, I decided to pick up an adult coloring book to see if they actually work in creating relaxation. And yes, I know that I am playing into the alt-rights portrayal of liberals as snowflakes with safe spaces and adult coloring books, but hey, it’s better to be conscious of your mental health than to be bullied by internet trolls.

The Experiment

In order to test the validity of adult coloring books I needed to induce stress and frustration. The best way to do this, I figured, was to watch the evening news for a full 30 minutes. I decided on ABC World News with David Muir in order to eliminate any bias associated with liberal or conservative news outlets. I ordered a Great British Bake Off coloring book (one of the most relaxing shows out there) and decided upon one image to color for the entire work week after the news, Monday through Friday.

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Oh David, not even your handsome face can cushion the blow of a Trump administration

What Happened

Monday January 16, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Rep. John Lewis boycotts the inauguration
  • Winter storms continue across the US
  • Outgoing CIA director warns Trump about Russia

Frustration level before coloring: 3/5

Frustration level after coloring: 1/5

This day wasn’t particularly too stressful, but coloring actually help my attention and focus more than I imagined. The 30 minutes flew by as if it were 5 minutes and all I was thinking about while coloring was what color I was gonna make all of the pies and pastries. And how delicious those pies and pastries must be of course.

Tuesday January 17, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Barbara Bush and George WH Bush hospitalized
  • Trump communications appointee resigns amid plagiarism scandal
  • Trump receives record low approval ratings as incoming president

Frustration level before coloring: 4/5

Frustration level after coloring: 1.5/5

One interesting aspect about this foray into coloring was when I began I was starving and almost ordered a pizza. After I began coloring though, I was not hungry anymore and didn’t eat for over an hour after I was finished. I believe, like on the first day, this was because of coloring helping me to focus more. Again, the coloring was relaxing and helped me to forget for a second about our new president.

Wednesday January 18, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Obama commutes Chelsea Manning
  • DeVos cites grizzly bears as reasoning for guns in schools
  • 18 million Americans will go uninsured if Obamacare repealed

Frustration level before coloring: 5/5

Frustration level after coloring: 2/5

It seemed like this day was filled to the brim with bad news. Every single one of Trump’s appointees said disparaging things about climate change, women’s rights and their own failures to disclose their finances. How could one forget to mention they had $100 million dollars just lying around? Nothing got my blood boiling more than DeVos confirmation when she said that guns should be allowed in schools to shoot grizzlies, that disabled students shouldn’t be protected by federal law and that she did not know she donated thousands to anti-LGBT groups. That being said, the coloring was a great distraction for the thirty minutes, but as soon I was done the bad news kept tumbling, in bringing back my frustration.

Thursday January 19, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Trump inaugural concert most boring, most cringe-worthy concert in modern history
  • 2016 named hottest year on record even though Trump dismisses global warming
  • Hundreds attend queer dance party outside of VP Pence’s house

Frustration level before coloring: 4.5/5

Frustration level after coloring: 1/5

Today’s news was a mixture of good and bad. Of course the biggest ticket was Trump’s concert but it made me feel happier knowing how sparsely attended it was and that his biggest draw was the guy who wrote “God Bless the USA”. That being said, my frustration levels didn’t last after coloring and it was a welcome distraction from what was happening in Washington.

Friday January 20, 2017

The day of Trump’s inauguration

Frustration level before coloring: 100,000,000/5

Frustration level after coloring: 3/5

To be honest I didn’t turn in to the news today. I already knew what was happening and did not want to be a part of it. I kept my tv off, switched off my wifi on my laptop, and kept my headphones on. Like in previous days, the coloring definitely helped to shift my focus and keep me calm as I was creating art, this day was just full of special circumstances and anxieties that would not go away easily.

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They make adult coloring books for everyone. Even your pervy uncle 

Did it Really Help?

In one word:yes. The coloring definitely helped to calm my frustrations and to keep me focused on creating art as opposed to pondering all of the bad things going on in the world. I found that I was paying less attention to things around me while I was coloring and that it was quite relaxing. As another positive, I found that it actually quelled my appetite, or at least made me focus on things other than food.

Will it Help Me?

If you find that certain things or people make you frustrated, then yes, coloring books will help you. Because I induced my frustration by watching the news I am unsure that coloring will help you cope with generalized anxiety that may be experienced at all times. However, if you need time to unwind and focus on other things besides your hectic life, then adult coloring books will aid you in that.

What Does the Research Say?

Research on the subject of adult coloring mainly focuses on the benefits to the brain as well as differences with art therapy. Psychologists have found that while coloring may not be as effective as art therapy in the treatment of major mental disorders, they have found four main benefits to adult coloring:

  1. Helps dementia and Alzheimer’s patients remain engaged with the outside world
  2. Can lower blood pressure (by decreasing stress)
  3. Trains your brain to focus better
  4. Helps people deal with PTSD and stress

Psychologist Stan Rodski, who has even authored his own coloring book, compares the effects of coloring to the effects of meditation. Like meditation, coloring allows us to switch off our brains and focus on what is at hand instead of  the perils of everyday life.

Adult coloring books may also help in relaxation by replacing negative images and thought with positive ones literally:

“You have to look at the shape and size, you have to look at the edges, and you have to pick a color,” Pearson told Nine MSN. “It should occupy the same parts of the brain that stops any anxiety-related mental imagery happening as well. … Anything that helps you control your attention is going to help.”

Final Thoughts

If you have been thinking about picking up an adult coloring book but have passed due to embarrassment, time limitations, or disbelief in their effects  just do it! Even taking just half an hour out of your day can ease frustrations, help you focus and keep your brain from eliciting negative thoughts. You can find adult coloring books practically everywhere for cheap, and you can create priceless advantages for your brain in the process.

 

Source:http://www.medicaldaily.com/therapeutic-science-adult-coloring-books-how-childhood-pastime-helps-adults-356280

 

 

Try it Tuesday: Achieving Brain Orgasms with ASMR

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Growing up there was always one thing I hated about Christmas: opening presents. Don’t get me wrong, I loved flinging away gilded wrapping paper to expose my wished for gifts of art sets, Matchbox cars, and SEGA games, but actually getting the toys out of the box left me cringing. The sounds of Styrofoam and cardboard elicited the worst physical reaction, even worse than the sound of nails on a chalkboard, causing painful tingling down my spine. If there are sounds that can cause negative tingling sensations is it possible that there are sounds that can cause euphoric, even orgasmic, tingling?

Enter ASMR or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. ASMR is defined as an exhilarating experience, categorized by static-like or tingling sensations produced in the scalp and head that can move around the body precipitating compete relaxation. Colloquially known as “brain orgasms,” ASMR has become the new trendy way to achieve relaxation and combat insomnia with dozens of YouTubers devoting whole channels to creating the tingles in their viewers.

One such YouTube star is ASMRDarling (real name Taylor) whose channel has amassed over 464,000 subscribers. Her videos routinely feature gentle whispering, rhythmic tapping, and intriguing role play designed to stimulate and decompress her viewers. Her most popular video, “ASMR 10 Triggers to Help You Sleep” has been viewed over 8.8 million times and I decided to join these millions in order to experience the illusive brain orgasm.  Everybody loves orgasms right?

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Watching the Video

As advertised, the video features 10 distinct audio sounds that her viewers find to be the most heavenly and relaxation inducing. I will chronicle experiences with each of the sounds in chronological order.

Makeup Brushes– This first audible experience, for me, was the most effective. The sounds of the brush against the microphone created a slight tingling sensation in my nose and cheeks. The experience was heightened after closing my eyes and letting the sounds immerse my perceptions. I can only compare the sounds made to sounds of the womb, deep low pitched thrashing that a fetus senses while enclosed in utero.  By the end of this exercise I was at ease, in a state of total relaxation.

Pins in a Cup– The sounds produced in this exercise came from both tapping the outside of the container as well as dropping the pins in the cup. Because the sounds were not as long as the first segment, I found the sounds of this portion to be less effective. The rhythmic tapping reminded me of the sounds of water droplets, prolonging my state of relaxation from the first experience, but did not produce the same tingling sensations. The thuds of the pins reminded me of childhood toys, like LEGOs being shaken in a plastic tub, which filled me with a sensation of joy and nostalgia, but sadly did not produce any inklings of a brain orgasm. Perhaps if the sound bites were longer they would be more effective?

Ceramic Vase– After missing the tingling sensations produced by the makeup brushed, the echoes of Taylor blowing on the vase brought them back in full force. In addition to reinstating the tingling in my nose and cheeks, the vibrations infiltrated my upper arms and spine. Her blows on the vase opening mimicked the pure sounds of isolated wind, extending my relaxation to almost a meditative state. If there was a video of just this blowing for ten minutes I am sure I would have reached a full blown brain orgasm.

Antique Book– I have always loved the sounds of cracking open an old book. Hearing the breakage of the glue in the spine as well as the crispness of the pages are some of the most satisfying sounds in my memory. The action of Taylor stroking the pages with her fingernails is the most effective, again causing tingling in my nose and face. One of my favorite times from childhood was reading before bedtime (Roald Dahl especially) and this exercise brought me back to those nights.

Masking Tape– Taylor professed that the sound of tape is her favorite childhood memory, thus her incorporation of the sounds into the video. Perhaps my childhood memories of Christmas counteracted any meditative qualities in the tape noises as this segment held no relaxing qualities. Of course the tape produced an interesting clamor, just not one that promoted ASMR in my mind.

Water– This is the most conventional sound in producing an ASMR response. Rain machines have been around for decades in order to engender sleep in restless individuals. The sounds of the water brought forth images of rain, rivers, and waves again causing relaxation. No tingles here though, maybe because I have used rain machines in the past?

Matches– I was surprised at how calming the sound of scratching matches can be as the action is so similar to nails scratching a chalkboard. The sounds reminded me of walking on snow and ice (something I loved during my childhood growing up in Upstate New York) and again were very soothing. When Taylor then put the lit match in the water from the previous segment, it created a very interesting sound, but it was too short lived to create any orgasmic effects.

Hair Cutting– Now this exercise is unlike any of the other experiences. Taylor breaks the fourth wall with a pair of scissors in order to create the illusion that she is cutting your hair. I for one love the sensation of getting my hair done but it was hard for me to visualize that she was actually touching me. However, she gave me the same individualized attention that one gets when visiting a salon or receiving customer care so I can see the appeal of this section. I can now remember feeling tingling sensations from previous visits to Supercuts and will look out for them in the future.

Coins in Bowl– I’ll be honest, this is the segment that left me a little confused. My dog, however, perked her ears when hearing this portion through my headphones so maybe I am just missing something. The sound of the coins reminded me of collecting coins for my piggybank as a child so maybe the fact that I grew up without money is an impediment to getting the tingles from this exercise. No tingles here.

Tapping– The last sounds produced for the video was a good way to end this experiment. The tapping on the wooden box reminded me of horse trotting while the scratching, again, reminded me of walking on ice. Listening to the scratching repeatedly incited a deep relaxation with some minor tingling in my face and shoulders. I can postulate that if this segment were several minutes that I would be on my way to achieving the good old ‘gasm.

Why did it Work?

As mentioned above, most of the sounds incorporated into the video either replicated noises observed in nature or experienced in childhood. We have used nature to relax for centuries: you will seldom find a person who would turn down a free trip to Hawaii to relax on the beach or someone who wouldn’t try a rain machine to combat insomnia. What I find more interesting are the allusions to childhood memories incorporated into ASMR videos. Taylor throughout the video, and her dozens of other ASMR videos, only speaks in a whisper or a soft tone of voice, similar to how parents talk to their children or get their babies to calm down after temper tantrums. When I was hearing the tones produced in the videos images of Christmas, childhood toys, reading books at bedtime, playing in the snow, and saving up money flooded my consciousness bringing with them positive memories of childhood. Even in her haircutting video Taylor takes the position of a care giver, giving you a haircut similar to how my mother would attempt to give me a trim at the kitchen table.

So is ASMR a Freudian construct rooted in largely debunked psychoanalytic pseudoscience? I would not go that far. I would categorize ASMR as a tool designed to bring back memories of childhood and memories of where we have experienced total relaxation, which happens to be in places of serene nature for the most of us. Additionally, childhood seldom brings the daily anxieties and fears that come with adulthood and thus reliving childhood can bring us back to a time where we were at peace. Hearing is a powerful sense and when all other senses are eliminated, sounds by themselves can bring forth positive emotions stored deep in our subconscious.

Will it Work for Me?

Based on my conclusions your own experiences will dictate whether or not you can achieve a brain orgasm. If you have never felt any sense of deep relaxation then the odds of being able to achieve it by watching YouTube videos is probably pretty slim. Also, if you go into a video thinking that it will never work then you are setting yourself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy. I would recommend determining what makes you the most relaxed and the happiest and finding a video that simulates those events through sound.

What Does the Research Say?

ASMR has not undergone the scrutiny of rigorous psychological testing, as it is a rather newly discovered phenomenon, but is considered to be genuine due to a hefty amount of anecdotal evidence. Blogger Steven Novella sums this up best writing:

“Is it real? In this case, I don’t think there is a definitive answer, but I am inclined to believe that it is. There are a number of people who seem to have independently (that is always the key, but it is a recent enough phenomenon that this appears to be true) experienced and described the same syndrome with some fairly specific details. In this way it’s similar to migraine headaches – we know they exist as a syndrome primarily because many different people report the same constellation of symptoms and natural history.”

Final Thoughts

Though perhaps not as intense as a real orgasm, ASMR creates a pleasant relaxing sensation; that is if you are open to it. If you allow yourself to become completely immersed in the sounds of whispering, tapping, and nature you can unlock a euphoric tingling feeling that can ease anxiety, insomnia and everyday uneasiness. With all the content available on YouTube why not take the chance to experience this for yourself. If anything you can get a laugh out of watching people whispering into a microphone.