When we think about losing weight, we often think it´s really hard. We can associate weight loss or going on a diet with restricting things (e.g. cutting out certain foods, force feeding ourselves sticks of celery), slogging up a hill, or going to the gym running on a treadmill for hours on end. Gosh, no wonder we find losing weight difficult. This month, let´s change our view of weight loss as something hard and see how we can do it by having fun! Sound interesting? Read on!
How an inner smile and laughter helps weight loss
By approaching weight loss with a smile (or laughter), we come from a different angle. Suddenly we think about what we like (rather than what we do not like).
You can approach weight loss like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey (donkeys like carrots so they will start walking towards it). Or try beating it with a stick. Which would motivate you more? (Hint, donkeys love carrots!).
When we feel stressed, anxious or depressed, we may change our eating habits, looking for those foods that bring us “comfort”. Sometimes these foods might not be the most healthy things for us to eat – cakes, sweets, cheese, chips and so on. Notice, next time you reach for any of those food items, stop for a moment and check, what is your mood like? If you are feeling stressed or a bit low, sit down and breathe for a while, find something to make you smile or laugh.
What happens in your body when you laugh?
Laughter affects our whole body in a myriad of ways.
We have lots of muscles in our face and it takes different muscles to smile or frown. Take a moment to try smiling – turn the corners of the mouth up. Notice how this feels in your face. And then notice how this uplift of the mouth starts to change how you feel in your body.
When you laugh, you breathe deeply, inhaling into the whole of the lungs, expanding the diaphragm. This brings oxygen into the body, giving us a natural lift.
A loud belly laugh can move the whole body. This movement of the muscles stimulates circulation of the blood and the lymphatic system. Combined with the extra oxygen that we take in as we inhale, this really does give our body a boost and enhances our immune system.
When we smile or laugh, the body releases endorphins into our system. Endorphins are our body´s natural feel good chemicals. Exercise also releases endorphins, which is why you can feel great after working out or exercising.
Health benefits of laughter
The scientific evidence is mounting that laughter is good for our health. Laughter:
- Reduces stress
- Improves circulation
- Enhances your immune system
- Reduces cortisol levels (cortisol is produced when our body is under stress – it is needed for the fight or flight response)
- Encourages your muscles to relax
- Relieves pain (the body releases its natural pain killers)
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Boost self confidence
Find (or create) a light hearted weight loss support group
There is a mountain close to La Crisalida Retreats in Albir and sometimes on the campo walk a few guests decide to continue walking uphill to reach the top. The gradient is pretty steep. You should see their faces when they arrive back at the retreat (usually arriving in perfect time for lunch) – their skin and eyes are glowing, and they have a real sense of achievement and connection to the other people on the walk.
Other guests tell us about groups that they have found or created which helps them with motivation for exercise. One woman told me that she joins a group on a weekend. Together they take the train out from London to different places on a Saturday or Sunday, to try a new circular walk. With friends, they chat and laugh about things as they walk, making their exercise a social event too.
What makes you laugh out loud?
Take a moment to ask yourself, what makes you smile or laugh (without the use of alcohol!!)? What do you enjoy doing? How can you bring these things into your life?
Find a photo, image, cartoon strip, something that brings a smile to your face and place it somewhere you can see it often – on the fridge, on your phone or laptop. It might be a photo of you, or your child, or pet doing something that triggers an emotional memory of a happy time. It might be a cartoon strip (we love Calvin and Hobbs).
Laugh your way to health
- Watch funny DVDs or go to a live comedy evening. Ask a friend to tell you their favourite joke.
- Go dancing – nothing too serious.
- Play with your dog (ask a neighbour or volunteer at the local animal shelter) – notice how much they love chasing after a ball for ages, then flopping down with a big sigh.
- Practice your yoga with an inner smile (read this months article here).
- Does one of your friends have a really infectious laugh? Spend some time with them and allow yourself to laugh together.
- Go swimming. Find a centre with water slides – climbing all those steps to the top counts as exercise!
- Try roller blading (on a nice flat road if you´ve not done it for a while)
More information on weight loss retreats
About the author
- Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).