Energizer: The Benefits of Laughter

It starts even as babies – a deep belly laugh improves the mood not just of the infant, but also for all those who hear it. Then, with children, being able to coax a laugh from a sad toddler can change their outlook on the entire situation.

But as adults do we laugh enough? The popularity of laughter programs and laughter yoga1 suggest that this is an area lacking in some adults’ lives.

Laughter has many physical, mental and spiritual benefits, with virtually no contraindications.2 Here are a few of them:3

Physical Effects

Ever notice how your stomach actually hurts after laughing? That’s the stimulation of your muscles – and they’re not the only ones affected. Laughter leads to more oxygen-rich air rushing into the body, stimulating organs like your heart and lungs as well. It also increases the endorphin rush from the brain.

Stress Release

Laughter revs up the nervous system, increasing circulation, heart rate and blood pressure – just like exercise. As the stress response cools down, the “rest and digest” system kicks in, bringing with it muscle relaxation and stress relief.

Pain Relief and Immune Response

Positive experiences can support the immune system by fighting stress and illness via the release of neuropeptides. Laughter may also help the body to produce its own natural painkillers.

Mental Benefits

It’s no stretch to say that laughing makes you feel good. To extrapolate that, consider that laughter makes it easier to cope with less-than-ideal situations, and helps people connect with others. Laughter can even help decrease depression and anxiety.

That’s a pretty impressive list of positive outcomes for an intervention that is free, requires no prescription, and can be done anywhere and anytime. And you don’t need to rely on knock-knock jokes or become a veritable Patch Adams to assist with cueing the chuckles. This energizer is interactive, social and sure to garner lots of giggles, so participants will reap the benefits not just of laughter, but of movement as well.

Energizer: Pool Noodle Balloon Volleyball4

Materials needed:

  • 1 ribbon
  • 3 balloons
  • 1 pool noodle piece per participant (pool noodles can be cut in two to make their size more manageable)

How to play:

  1. Fasten the ribbon across the playing area at chest or waist-height – this will be the net. You could use chairs, tape it onto walls, or even enlist two volunteers/referees to hold the ribbon and be of assistance. It is easier to start the net off lower, as it is challenging to hit a balloon with a pool noodle and have the balloon travel high and far.
  2. Divide participants into two equal teams, one on either side of the net, facing each other. This game can be done standing or seated, in chairs, wheelchairs, or on the seat of a walker.
  3. Provide each player with a pool noodle.
  4. Using the same rules as volleyball, but with unlimited hits per side, teams try to score points by having the balloon touch the ground on the opposing team’s side of the net. Reminder – the balloon cannot touch down on the players’ own side or else the other team will have scored a point. All other surfaces are “live” – so the teams can bounce the balloon off of chairs, knees, heads, the wall, the ceiling – any spot other than the floor.
  5. To slow the game down, use one balloon. To make it more fast-paced, use three balloons at the same time.
  6. Participants can use the pool noodle to hit the balloon or use any part of the body – hands, feet, head or the use of the participants’ breath to keep the balloon aloft
  7. Another alternative to play this game with participants with limited mobility is to pair up the participants (let’s call them participant A) with someone with full range of motion (we’ll call them participant B). Participant B could be blindfolded, or just need to listen to participant A, who will call out directions to have participant B try to make contact with the balloon.

With pool noodles and balloons involved – plus a healthy dose of competition, this energizer will get the blood and the laughs flowing. Add some fun, upbeat music and this will be an energizer that ends in smiles.

1Strean, W.B. (2009). Laughter prescription. Can Fam Physician. 55(10): 967-967. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2762283/

2Mora-Ripoll, R. (2010). The therapeutic value of laughter in medicine. Altern Ther Health Med. 16(6):56-64. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21280463

3Mayo Clinic staff. (2016, April 21). Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke. Retrieved March 7, 2017 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456.

4John Byl. (n.d.). Pool Noodle Volleyball. Retrieved March 7, 2017 from: http://www.ciraontario.com/page/show/1212235-pool-noddle-volleyball