There is an inherent link between the body and mind. Whatever happens to the mind happens to the body. If you observe sad and depressed people, their bodies are also depressed. They walk slowly, talk slowly and their body movements are sluggish and listless.
The opposite is also true; whatever happens to the body happens to the mind. I remember my father said, ‘If you’re sad, don’t sit idle. Keep doing some physical work or go for a walk and jog, you will feel better’. And he was right; I always feel better when I keep my body active. This is known as theory of motion creates emotion and it establishes a two-way link between body and mind. If one changes the quality of thoughts, one can feel a change in body behavior. Conversely, if one can bring a change in body behavior one can experience the change in mental state. Laughter Yoga has the ability to synchronize both body and the mind, maintaining a mutual harmony.
Two Way Link Between Body And Mind
Psychologist William James in 1884 found that the state of mind, whether positive or negative, is mirrored in a matching bodily expression– or ‘body behavior’. In his research he found that each emotion in the mind has a corresponding behavior in the body. He discovered that bodily enacting any emotional behavior triggers corresponding changes in the state of mind. The connection works both ways: from mind to body and body to mind.
Sexual thoughts lead to arousal of sex organs in the body, and stimulation of the body’s erogenous zones also induces sexual arousal in the mind.
Acting sad and depressed (for example sitting in a moping, depressed posture and replying to questions in a sad and dismal voice) soon leads to real emotional sadness.
Actors who portray strong emotions often tell of real-life emotional repercussions. Many film and theater actors have reported that while performing tragic roles they experience a real sadness.
Dr. Dale Anderson, MD (Minnesota USA) tells of an American actress who played tragic roles for so long that she fell into depression with classical physical symptoms. After extensive physical testing, her doctors declared her physically healthy, but psychologists suggested she stop playing tragic roles and turn to comedy. As she followed their advice her symptoms and depression completely disappeared.
The same phenomenon can be observed in athletes participating in competitive sports. Physically they act in a brave and courageous manner, shouting and making body gestures to put their mind into a positive winning state. This reduces their fear and anxiety. Soldiers use similar tactics when preparing to attack, often shouting at the top of their voices to ‘psych themselves up’. This bodily expression of courage creates matching emotions in the mind.
Laughter Yoga –The Childlike Model
Do you know why children laugh 300 to 400 times in a day while grown-ups laugh only 10 to 15 times?
It’s because adults use their cognitive ability to first comprehend humor and then laugh. This is called the mind-to-body model or the Humor model. It relies on the ability to understand what’s funny and amusing. For example, the extent to which a person laughs at a given joke depends on the quality of the joke, the narration and also the state of mind of the listener.
But, the model has its limitations – it does not guarantee how much a person will laugh. It’s conditional: dependent on a sense of humor, the state of mind and the quality of the external stimulus. Being a mental experience, it has the disadvantage of diminishing with any physical or mental aberration that reduces cognitive and intellectual functionality.
The other model is the Childlike model or body-to-mind model. If you observe children, you will find that they laugh the most while playing. Their laughter comes straight from the body and does not make use of any intellectual capacity of the brain. This clearly shows that the source of their laughter is within the body. We, too, can use it whenever necessary by moving the body at our own will. The significant feature of this model is that the person must actively participate in laughter and humorous activities. Being passive will not reap the same benefits.
Laughter Yoga and laughing without any reason helps to cultivate this childlike playfulness. Once you learn to play, laughter is a natural outcome. When you learn to induce laughter in the body, the mind just falls in step. The physical model of laughter is easy to practice for most people. They are relieved not to feel the pressure to identify with the mental part of humor.