If you were asked to name something that offered many health benefits and almost no negative side effects or undesirable outcomes, what would it be? Laughter is a pleasant prescription with no concerns regarding dosage, side effects or allergies. It is no wonder then that laughter therapy is increasing in recognition as an effective mode of intervention for various health issues.
What is Laughter Therapy?
Laughter Therapy is a type of therapy that uses humour and laughter to improve emotional wellbeing by relieving pain and stress. It includes the use of laughter exercises, comedy or games and is also known as “humour therapy”.
What Happens When We Laugh?
Laughter is comprised of two actions, namely gestures and sounds. Certain circumstances trigger your body to perform a “rhythmic vocalized expiratory and involuntary action”, simply called “laughter”. In extreme cases, tear ducts are also activated.
When you laugh, several chemical processes take place. Endorphins, also known as “natural feel-good hormones”, are released from the pituitary glands into the blood and subsequently into the brain. Dopamine (a neurotransmitter) is also produced, which has positive effects on mood, behaviour, cognition, sleep, movement, and even memory.
Health Benefits of Laughter
Laughter therapy being incorporated into medicine is a clear indication that it has real health benefits, which can be divided into physiological, psychological and emotional benefits.
- Pain relief
- Boosts immunity through an increase in antibodies (such as immunoglobulin A) that has a protective ability against some viruses and bacteria
- Causes immediate increase of heart rate, respiratory depth and oxygen consumption
- This leads to a subsequent period of muscle relaxation and a corresponding lowering of the heart rate and blood pressure
- Contributes to restful sleep
- Reduces stress hormones
- Eases tension and anxiety
- Promotes brain connectivity
- Improves memory and alertness
- Improves brain function
- Encourages creativity
- Boosts self-esteem
- Releases feel-good hormones
- Encourages good rapport and connection with others
- Develops resilience
What to Expect from a Laughter Therapy Session
A typical laughter therapy session will have a therapist, who will guide the entire session. It’s aimed at cultivating childlike playfulness and it’s done in groups, to improve your connection with other people.
It will consist of the following 4 steps;
- Clapping and warm-up exercises that help build positive energy in the group.
- Deep breathing exercises that help bring mental and physical relaxation.
- Childlike playfulness that helps bring a happy mood and laughter.
- Laughter exercises that may involve playful games and narrating funny experiences.
Besides the health benefits listed above, you can expect the following paybacks after the session.
As a proven technique of stress reduction, laughter therapy takes little time, yet leaves you energized and fresh throughout the day. It also creates a motivated and happy workforce, which makes it a strong team-building exercise.
The group aspect of the sessions will help you to develop self-confidence. It also adds “oomph” to your communication skills and will help to increase your attention span. Laughter therapy will help improve your quality of life, by exposing you to a rich social network – providing a sense of emotional security that helps in combating depression and anxiety.
Laughter is more than just a feel-good emotion, its benefits spread beyond a happy face. It’s for this reason, and a scientific backing, that laughter therapy continues to be recognized as a mode of intervention for various health issues.
It’s been proven to leave you refreshed, motivated, emotionally secure and calm even on tough days. So, why not take a laughter therapy session and laugh your way to great health?