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You’re having a laugh!

As a child, I recall some of my favourite times being spent with my dear uncle where his love of laughter was just the best thing ever!! Growing up in the 1960s, I had always felt as though I didn’t quite know where I belonged – possibly, a legacy of my parents being first-generation immigrants from that incredible sub-continent, India……and even though I really did love my early school days, it didn’t help this sense of feeling different as my siblings and I were the only brown-skinned kids in the classroom!

Many of you, who have attended my workshops, will have heard me say, on a regular basis, how much I love the logic of Mr. Spock, that I’ve always been drawn to the misfit-world of the eccentric, how I’d work for Derren Brown for nothing and that, as a child, I had wanted to run away to the circus!?! With Hugh Jackman now as “The Greatest Showman”, I really could be tempted today!

Whilst circus clowns may not be everyone’s cup of tea (thank you, Stephen King, for the horrors of “IT”), I don’t mind them, actually……but for those of you who can’t stand them, how about looking at the concept of clowning around instead, because that is now something entirely different.

Having a laugh or clowning around brings about a sense of fun and play that, sadly, some of us can lose as we enter the adult world of work and responsibility. Laughter is the only true prescription that has no side-effects, provides 100% health benefits, with no concerns regarding dose, contra-indications or allergies – it brings us back to why it’s so good to be alive! It’s no wonder, then, that laughter therapy has been increasing in recognition recently as an effective mode of intervention for several health issues.

So, now for the science bit: when we laugh, it leads to two actions, namely in terms of gestures and sounds. Situations and circumstances can trigger your body to perform a rhythmic, vocalised expiratory and involuntary action, simply known as laughter. In extreme cases, we all know it can even activate the tear ducts! Several chemical processes also take place. Endorphins, known as the natural feel-good hormones, are released from the pituitary glands into the blood and then into the brain. Dopamine is also produced, which has a positive effect on mood, behaviour, cognition, sleep pattern, movement and even memory. Believe it or not, laughter therapy is now being incorporated into mainstream medicine!

Physiological benefits

  • Pain relief
  • Boosts immunity through an increase in antibodies, providing a protective ability against certain viruses and bacteria
  • Causes an immediate increase of heart rate, respiratory depth and oxygen consumption
  • Reduces muscle spasm with a corresponding lowering of the heart rate and blood pressure
  • Enhances relaxation
  • Encourages restful sleep

Psychological benefits

  • Reduces stress hormones
  • Eases tension and anxiety
  • Promotes brain connectivity
  • Improves memory and alertness
  • Improves brain function
  • Encourages creativity

Emotional benefits

  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Releases feel-good hormones
  • Encourages good rapport and connection with others
  • Develops resilience

A laughter therapy session is aimed at creating an environment conducive to accessing our free spirit. It fosters a sense of fun and play with the opportunity to work together so people can improve their connection with others.

It may typically include the following steps:

  • Warm-up exercises that help build positive energy in the group
  • Deep breathing to bring about mental and physical relaxation
  • Creative imagery leading to feelings of a happy mood and laughter
  • Interactive participation in various games and/or narrating funny experiences

As a proven technique for stress reduction, laughter therapy takes very little time, yet leaves you feeling energised and fresh for the rest of the day. It also lends itself to creating a motivated and happy workforce, which makes it an excellent strengthening team-building exercise. The group aspect of the sessions helps to develop self-confidence. It also adds ‘oomph’ to your communication skills and will even help increase your attention span.

Laughter therapy has been proven to help improve people’s quality of life by extending their social network, providing a sense of emotional security and even alleviating depression and anxiety.

Laughter is more than just a feel-good emotion and its benefits certainly spread beyond a happy face! It leaves you refreshed, motivated, emotionally secure and calm, even on tough days. So, don’t just take my word for it – you don’t even have to run away to join the circus – why not book yourself onto a laughter therapy session, instead, and simply laugh your way to fabulous health!?!

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