Laughter is the best medicine as Galway prepares for first Laughter Championship

This year marks the inaugural year for Ireland’s Laughter Championship. NUI Galway student Siobhan Kavanagh is hoping to cure the Irish people of stress through the natural remedy of laughter as she conducts this charity event in aid of Jigsaw in the Harbour Hotel this Sunday May 5.

Ms Kavanagh’s enterprising venture will coincide with the Well Being in Ireland conference in June, when international researchers will converge in Galway to discuss the design of a national wellbeing index for Ireland. The PhD student in child and youth research is also introducing a burgeoning craze to the people of Galway with this laughter championship.

Laughter Championships are taking off worldwide. Contestants are asked to demonstrate different types of laugher (eg a maniacal laugh or a diabolical laugh ) and are then judged on their technique. The main aim is to improve the expression of positive human emotions.

The growing popularity of laugher championships is partly due to the rise of laughter yoga, a modernised variant of hasya yoga. Laughter yoga is an aerobic exercise which involves breathing exercises, laughter exercises and guided meditation (yoga nidra ), to provide participants with a safe space to laugh. And Siobhan Kavanagh is also a member of the Irish Laughter Yoga association so it is no surprise that her interest in this unusual hobbie has yielded this initiative.

Her research with Dr Padraig MacNeela, lecturer in the university’s School of Psychology, investigates the impact of laughter yoga on well-being. She said”: Although laughter has been described as the best medicine, researchers are only starting to understand the positive effects it can have on the body and mind, or indeed on wellbeing. Research on laughter yoga has found many benefits, for example, increased levels of life satisfaction, positive emotion, and decreased stress levels. However to date there has only been a handful of different studies completed, and a lot of the 'evidence' for laughter yoga comes from humour based research. We need to be mindful when we are telling people about the positive effects of laughter yoga, that research is still in the early stages. However, ancedotally, laughter yoga participants report a range of benefits,” explains Ms Kavanagh.

There is no admission charge for the event and there will be live entertainment, including laughter yoga demonstrations, face-painting, games, and music at the championship. Entering the championship costs €10 with the title of Irish Laughter Champion to play for. All proceeds will be donated to Jigsaw, a free and confidential support service for young people in Galway city and county.

All competitors will be required to attend a workshop at 1pm in preparation for the laughter championships. For further information on competing, or to volunteer at the event email [email protected]

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