I met an amazing woman yesterday. When I asked her what she did for a job,
she told me she was a Laughter Therapist. I stared at her. And then I smiled. Imagine having that as a job title? I decided to find out more about it, so we sat down and had a good chat.
Laughter Therapy does exactly what it says in the title – it uses the power of laughter to cheer people up, support them with illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and brings a bit of light in to people’s lives. We all know that laughter can be contagious – can you remember a time when you saw someone laughing, and joined in without really knowing why? This is because all of us, on some level, know that a good belly laugh is very good for us and our happiness within..
Healthy, non-ridiculing and connecting laughter provides physiological and spiritual benefits you probably never realized or imagined. We are born with the gift of laughter -it’s being serious that we learn!
Laughter not only provides a full-scale workout for your muscles, it unleashes a rush of stress-busting endorphins. The elation you feel when you laugh is a great way of combating the physical effects of stress and unhappiness. When we laugh, our body relaxes and endorphins (natural painkillers) are released into the blood stream to make for a much happier mood..
A laughter therapist’s aim is to help you laugh more easily. Therapy is available in group or individual sessions that start with a warm-up followed by a range of activities designed to get you giggling. Laughter doesn’t come easily to everyone, but luckily the body can’t actually distinguish between real and fake laughter. So faking it has the same beneficial effect.
What evidence is there that it works?
Dr Lee Berk of Loma University Medical Centre, California, has been conducting laughter therapy research since the late 1970s. In 1989, Berk studied the effects of laughter in 10 healthy males. Five experimental subjects watched an hour-long comedy while five control subjects didn’t. Blood samples taken from the 10 subjects revealed that cortisol (the hormone our body releases when under stress) in the experimental subjects had decreased more rapidly in comparison to the control group.
Berk’s research has also shown that the level of natural killer cells (a type of immune cell that attacks virus and tumour cells) is increased through laughter. These same cells are suppressed if the body suffers consistent long-term stress.
Researchers at the University of Michigan have also calculated that just 20 seconds of laughter could be as good for the lungs as three minutes spent on a rowing machine!
The origins of laughter therapy
The therapeutic effects of laughter have been clinically studied since the 70s, but Dr Madan Kataria – who developed laughter yoga in Mumbai – is credited with bringing laughter therapy into the mainstream. Kataria set up the first laughter club in 1995. There are now more than 5,000 laughter clubs worldwide.
Getting to happiness within
A laughter therapy session may leave you feeling elated and exhausted in equal measure. Muscle tone and cardiovascular functions may be improved, and oxygen levels in the blood may be boosted.
In the long term, laughter therapy teaches us that we don’t just have to laugh when we are happy. Laughing in the face of anger, stress or anxiety – even if it’s forced laughter – can actually lift your mood and happiness within. And it’s infectious, so you can expect to see those around you benefiting from a good giggle too.
My challenge for you is to take 5 minutes every evening a just laugh by yourself or with someone. My daughter and I laughed every night before she left home and now we laugh on the phone with each other. It really makes a difference. Try it you’ll like it!