What’s the science behind laughter?
We’ve been laughing all our lives… but we forget to use it. Children laugh around 300 times a day… shockingly, adults laugh around 12 times a day. As adults, we often laugh socially (from our throat and chest) and only 25% of our laughter is in response to something funny – we rarely have those deep belly laughs which are the ones which really do us good.
Just 15 minutes of laughter a day provides an aerobic workout, getting fresh oxygen into our system to improve efficiency and performance; lowers blood pressure; increases the release of our brain’s natural chemicals and hormones (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins) which not only make us feel happy, but also help elevate mood, reduce pain, boost our immune system, decrease the body’s production of cortisol and thus, reduce stress hormones. Laughter is a great social connector which can have positive effects on anxiety, depression and isolation; and can be a good bonding experience for families, friends, co-workers and even a group of strangers can quickly become friends.
Have a listen to us on the radio: CHBN Radio Laughter Show
What goes on in our wellbeing activities?
Our activities are as energetic or as laid back as you like and each session is around 50 minutes (sometimes, there’s cake afterwards). We start with some fun laughter exercises and breathing techniques (based on laughter yoga), incorporating mindfulness. The laughter at this stage is generally fake, we’re just going through the motions of laughter and although this often turns into real giggles and guffaws, it doesn’t really matter because your body doesn’t know the difference and responds like we’re all laughing for real. Which is nice.
Some of our activities involve movement to music and/or free laughter – this is where we all lie on the floor (or sit in a chair if that’s more comfortable) and have a right rollicking raucous laugh together. This generally makes everyone very happy and a bit tired, so we do a few minutes of relaxation.
And afterwards? Well, we generally feel very nicely chilled, and also pretty energised. Laughees have reported effects such as getting the best night’s sleep; cleaning their house and their neighbour’s house; being relaxed for the first time in a long time; being mindful and in the moment without even trying; and finding they can deal with stress better, by looking at things differently.
Erm… you mentioned yoga?
Our laughter exercises and breathing techniques are based on Laughter Yoga. Yes, it’s an actual type of yoga and no, you don’t need to be flexible or have done yoga before. The translation of the word ‘yoga’ is ‘union’ between mind, body and soul, and the yoga element is the breathing bit (and that’s fun too). There are no yoga postures and it’s suitable for all ages and abilities. You don’t even need any yoga kit to do it – just comfortable clothing is perfect.
Anything I should be aware of before doing laughter exercises?
Whilst laughter exercises are fun and low-intensity exercise with numerous beneficial effects for the body, mind and emotions, laughing involves some physical strain and a rise in intra-abdominal pressure. Like any form of exercise, it should not be practiced by people with medical problems without first seeking advice from a medical professional.
Laughter Yoga is contraindicated for people with: Advanced (bleeding) piles. Any kind of hernia. Any persistent cough. Anything with acute symptoms. Epilepsy. Heart Disease. Pregnancy. High blood pressure. Incontinence. Major psychiatric disorders. Severe backache. Having undergone surgery within the last 3 months.
This list is for guidance only and is not meant to be exhaustive. If in doubt, first consult a trained medical professional for guidance. Anyone already undergoing physician-prescribed therapy should seek the advice of their doctor before reducing or stopping such treatment. If during a session, any participant feels sudden or new pain, they should leave the session immediately, seeking assistance if needed.