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Laugh Your Way to Better Diabetes Management

  • Health

Every five minutes, another Australian develops diabetes, making it the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia; that’s nothing to laugh about.

While National Diabetes Week, from 14-21 July 2024, focuses on diabetes technology to support better management of this chronic condition, mounting scientific evidence supports the practice of Laughter Yoga as part of the lifestyle changes and health interventions critical to good diabetes management.

What is Laughter Yoga?

Laughter Yoga is a body-mind practice, developed by a medical doctor, Dr Madan Kataria, in India in 1995.

It’s a unique blend of laughter exercises and yogic breathing techniques that has garnered attention worldwide for its many and varied physical, mental and social health benefits.

Participants laugh, clap, chant, move playfully and breathe deeply. There’s no reliance on jokes or humour. You don’t have to be ‘in the mood’ to laugh.

The science behind Laughter Yoga and diabetes management

In recent years, scientific studies have begun to explore the effects of Laughter Yoga on diabetes management—particularly for those with the most common form, type 2 diabetes, which usually develops later in life.

A Japanese study, published in the medical journal Frontiers in Endocrinology, for example, revealed that regular participation in Laughter Yoga sessions led to improvements in glycaemic control and overall quality of life.

Glycaemic control in diabetes is crucial as it helps keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range. This supports overall health and quality of life, slows the disease’s progression and helps prevent serious, even life-threatening, complications.

Yet, important as all that is, compliance can be tough—we’re all only human—which is why researchers around the world have been looking at Laughter Yoga as a seriously fun way of supporting people with diabetes’ self-care.

Stress can impact blood sugar levels. Laughter Yoga has been proven to wind back the stress hormone cortisol. In this way, this light cardio, fun, activity may help regulate blood glucose levels and lessen the risk of cardiovascular complications associated with diabetes.

In another study, published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, researchers investigated the impact of Laughter Yoga on diabetic neuropathy, a common complication of diabetes characterised by nerve damage. Those who engaged in Laughter Yoga sessions experienced significantly less neuropathic pain. Laughter triggers the release of the body’s natural pain-killing feel-good chemical, endorphin, which can help alleviate pain perception and promote relaxation. Participants also showed improved nerve conduction velocity compared to the control group.

Then there’s research coming out of Iran, published in the Applied Family Therapy Journal, that looked at mental health and quality of life issues for women with type 2 diabetes. Those who took part in an 8-week Laughter Yoga program experienced better mood, less anxiety and better sleep.

Why Laughter Yoga matters for people with diabetes

Effective diabetes management involves so much more than medication and dietary restrictions.

For people living with diabetes, the daily challenges and stressors can take a toll on their mental health and quality of life. Laughter Yoga offers a non-pharmacological, fun way to complement traditional diabetes care.

And let’s face it, not all of us enjoy what we think of as exercise. Laughter Yoga is enjoyable exercise. Who doesn’t enjoy laughing? It’s so playful and fun, it doesn’t feel like exercise.

Taking part in Laughter Yoga

Laughter Yoga is practised worldwide, including Australia.

There are free or low-cost, in-person sessions, called laughter clubs, in many locations run by trained volunteers called laughter leaders. This webpage lists locations in Queensland, Australia as well as online laughter clubs.

Yoga studios are increasingly incorporating Laughter Yoga in their offerings.

Community organisations may run Laughter Yoga sessions or workshops too.

Laughter Yoga provides a therapeutic outlet to ease stress, enhance mood, and foster social connections—a crucial aspect of diabetes self-care.

It’s a seriously good, seriously overlooked, healthy and natural complementary aid to diabetes care.

(c) HeatherJoy Campbell 2024

HeatherJoy Campbell is an Australian-based global ambassador of Laughter Yoga International. She delivers laughter yoga wellbeing sessions and workshops in workplaces, community centres and aged care and runs two laughter clubs. She’s the lead trainer of ‘laughter leaders’ in Queensland.

2 thoughts on “Laugh Your Way to Better Diabetes Management”

  1. What a great article Heather-Joy! Laughter yoga is one of the highlights of my week. So important to one’s health and lots of fun at the same time.

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