You’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine, right? Well now there is a study to back up that old adage. Researchers found that women age 60 and over can ward of depression with healthy doses of the giggles and yoga. A study published in 2011 found that “Laughter Yoga” worked as well as exercise when it came to helping older women beat the blues. The idea behind the study was that laughter could improve a person’s mood whether or not the laughter comes about as a result of something funny being said or done.
The study involved 70 depressed women in Tehran ages 60 to 80 split into three groups. The “Laughter Yoga” and exercise therapy groups consisted of 23 women each, while 24 women comprised a control group. Each woman started the study by filling out a questionnaire to rate how depressed she was and how satisfied with life she was.
The Laughter Yoga group did 10 sessions that began with introducing happy thoughts, followed by clapping to increase energy and making rhythm. They swung their arms to a simple chant to work the diaphragm. The laughter exercises were interspersed with deep breathing exercises to cause physical and mental relaxation. The exercise therapy group did 10 sessions of 30 minutes each of aerobic exercise. The control group participated in neither of these activities.
At the end of the study, the women retook the questionnaire. The researchers found that Laughter Yoga was “at least as effective,” often more, as group exercise when it came to lifting the moods of depressed women and making them feel more satisfied with life overall.
These findings are in line with those of other studies that indicate that yoga and another Eastern movement technique, tai chi, both reduce depression. Such studies have positive implications for elderly women who could experience bothersome side effects from depression medications or who may be taking other medications that don’t mix well with antidepressants.
So if you’re feeling blue, sign up for a yoga or tai chi class or get a DVD that features these techniques. Then take a deep breath — and laugh out loud.