Laughter Therapy – Hee Hee Ha Ha Ha!

February 4, 2008 at 12:17 am Leave a comment

This is a wonderful short video done by John Cleese in his BBC series on the “Human Face” on the “Laughter Yoga”. 

Originated by Dr Madan Kataria in 1995, laughter yoga involves a faciliator leading groups of people in 15-20 minute sessions of laughter exercises.  Kataria uses fake laughter, and silly faces and movements to induce laughter in his participants who seem to be having a blast doing it.  Now the movement has spread to the rest of the world, and is being used with a diversity of populations – even with the U.S. military.

As Kataria points out in his website, laughter has many mental and physical health benefits which include:

  • Controlling high blood pressure and heart disease. While there are many factors for these like heredity, obesity, smoking and excessive intake of saturated fats, stress is one of the major factors. Laughter definitely helps to control blood pressure by reducing the release of stress-related hormones and bringing relaxation.
  • Increasing stamina through increased oxygen supply
  • Alleviating pain and giving a sense of well being by releasing endorphins, the body’s painkiller hormones.
  • Alleviating depression, anxiety and psychosomatic disorders: laughter boosts the production of serotonin, a natural anti-depressant.
  • Gives an excellent internal massage to the digestive tract and enhances blood supply to important internal organs like the liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys and adrenal glands.
  • Ensures good sleep and reduces snoring because laughter is very good for the muscles of the soft palate and throat

I believe laughter also takes us out of our everyday drama and often can put our difficulties into perspective.   It is impossible to take our daily frustrations quite so seriously after a good, long belly laugh.

So, what if you aren’t feeling very much like laughing?  Dr. Kataria endorses a ‘fake it ’til you make it’ approach where you simulate fake laughter until real laughter emerges.  Apparently, the brain isn’t able to distinguish between real & fake laughter and your body receives the same benefits regardless. 

I’ve seen this in action in my psychotherapy groups.  I will occasionally ask my adult groups to engage in childrens games such as musical chairs and duck-duck-goose and it’s always a surprise how transformative these simple exercises are.  A few minutes into play, you have these very serious adults running around red-faced, giggling and tagging each other and, at least for a few moments, letting go of their heavy thoughts and simply enjoying being in their bodies and communing with others.

Want to try your own laughter therapy?  Try a few of these ideas!

  • Watch a funny movie or funny videos on YouTube
  • Play a child’s game with a child or with an adult friend who’s young-at-heart
  • Sit and pretend to laugh alone or with a friend until real laughter emerges.  Just keep going with “heehee-hahaha” until you feel so silly, you’re laughing at yourself!
  • Attend a laughter yoga class here in San Francisco. 
    • Laughter Club – Free, open to all ages – Thursdays 7pm-8pm
      Stonestown Family YMCA – Senior Annex
      3150 20th Avenue, San Francisco
      (under 16 must be accompanied by a parent)

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Entry filed under: Depression, therapy. Tags: , , , , .

Events – Art, Emotion and the Brain Keeping it New – Long-term Relationships & Brain Chemistry

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