Can laughter therapy boost your health?
How laughter therapy could improve your lifestyle
Laughter has long been associated with happiness and emotional release, but now researchers are suggesting that watching a side-splitting film or comedy show could also do wonders for your health. With the rise of ‘laughter therapy’ classes and even laughter-inspired yoga, is it really possible that a good chuckle (or three) could boost your mental and physical health? Here are some of the benefits you might enjoy by giggling the blues away.
What is laughter therapy?
Depression may not seem like such a laughing matter, but certain therapists believe they have struck upon the perfect solution to banish society’s malaise. Pioneered by the Indian physician Dr Madan Kataria, ‘laughter therapy’ has become a surprise hit amongst those looking to beat credit crunch stress through enjoyable yet strenuous exercise.
Laughter therapy groups are a growing trend in the western world, with people seeking to banish their everyday concerns and fears through a variety of hearty chuckles, light giggles and rumbling belly-laughs. Though certainly not for the faint of heart, this form of therapy aims to promote a number of laughter-inspired health benefits. Developing group camaraderie through jokes, funny memories and, yes, chortling contests, laughter therapy is both fun and friendly, emphasising that laughter needn’t be restricted to happy moments but can even boost the mind when it’s forced.
Can laughter therapy really develop your health and fitness?
We’re not having a laugh with you here ... Studies by American researchers have found that laughter therapy is a viable form of cardiovascular (CV) exercise, powerfully working out the body’s heart and lungs in the same way that a rowing or bike machine session might. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that laughter boasts a wide range of health and fitness benefits, aiding everything from stress relief through to blood flow. The following points describe just some of the many key areas that laughter exercise can improve.
- Emotional release through laughter — If you’re the kind of person who stores up all emotion, becoming more and more anxious simply to keep a brave face, laughter could really help you release all your pent-up feelings. In the same way that primal scream therapy gets rid of inner demons, loud and lengthy laughter offers a fine way of venting your spleen. You’ll be feeling smiles better in no time!
- Beating stress, fear and anger through laughter — This is no joke ... laughter really can elevate your mood away from the everyday fears and worries that make life less enjoyable. Scientists have suggested that the body can’t actually tell the difference between real and fake laughter so even if you’re feeling down in the dumps, a strenuous fake chuckle could still trigger happiness hormones in your brain.
- Burning calories through laughter — As well as relieving stress and cooped-up emotions, laughter therapy offers an even better physical punch-line. By working out a number of key muscles, a hearty belly-laugh can really cut down your calories. Some studies have indicated that a strenuous, one-minute laugh could burn as many calories as 10 minutes spent on a rowing or bike machine. What a wheeze, eh?
- Boosting blood flow through laughter — Studies have found that laughing exercise can raise the flow of blood in the body by as much as 22 per cent, as the heart and lungs work harder to supply oxygen to key muscles. As well as boosting blood flow, relaxed arteries also help regulate blood pressure at normal levels. So why not give laughter therapy a try? You’ll soon feel a ho-ho-whole lot better!
- Boosting the immune system through laughter — Even if you’re immune to the concept of smiling, you certainly won’t be when it comes to preventing certain illnesses. Thankfully though, help is at hand ... if you’re just willing to lighten up a bit! A quick dose of laughter could seriously boost the immune system of even the most purse-lipped prude. Research has found that the body’s level of killer cells — essential in attacking viruses and cancers — are significantly increased after a laughing session. In contrast, these killer cells are reduced during lengthy periods of stress. So if you want to stay healthy and free of disease, it might be time you enjoyed a good laugh ...
Whilst it may not be for everyone, laughter therapy has clearly helped a number of people to combat mental and physical pressures through heart-warming and expressive chuckling. Even if you don’t fancy bursting into giggles amongst a group of strangers, it’s just as easy to enjoy laughter therapy at home, simply by watching a funny film or TV show. So don’t be a clown... why not try laughter therapy today? You’ll be a laughing stock if you don’t!
Doctor Kataria, founded of laughter therapy. How could you not laugh with this man?