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Laughing for Life

 

By Amanda Bate

Laughter therapy is the latest stress-busting, health-enhancing trend to take the well-being world by storm. According to new research by Ocean Village holidays, we’ve never needed it more - 16 million of us fail to enjoy a proper belly laugh even just once a day and the amount we laugh on a daily basis is a staggering three times lower than it was in the 1950’s.

These days, we spend so much of our time glued to the television for ‘entertainment’ and waiting for others to make us laugh when we can create laughter ourselves with simple, fun and easy exercises…after all, laughter is on everyone’s lips.

Laughter is a serious matter! Being able to laugh at yourself and with others is a core ingredient to a healthy life.

Researchers estimate that laughing 100 times daily is equal to a 10-minute workout on a rowing machine. You could call a good laugh, ‘internal jogging’, as it gives the internal organs a dynamic and total body workout. As with aerobic exercise, laughter decreases blood pressure and increases the vascular blood flow and oxygenation of the blood. Laughter also gives your diaphragm, abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles a workout. 

The reason we can often feel exhausted after a long bout of laughter is because we’ve just had an aerobic and isometric workout!

Researchers have also found that laughter reduces levels of certain stress hormones which suppress the immune system, increase the number of blood platelets - which can cause obstructions in arteries, and raise blood pressure. When we’re laughing, natural killer cells that destroy cancer cells increase, as does the level of Gamma-interferon - a disease-fighting protein, T-cells - a major part of the immune system, and B-cells - which make disease-destroying antibodies. 

Laughter may also increase the concentration of salivary immunoglobulin A, which defends against infectious organisms entering through the respiratory tract so it helps us to resist colds and viruses.

Increasingly mental health professionals are suggesting "laughter as therapy," as it teaches a person how to cope in difficult situations by using humour. Following the lead of real-life funny-doc Patch Adams (portrayed by Robin Williams in a movie by the same name), doctors and psychiatrists are becoming widely aware of the therapeutic benefits of laughter. Humour, clowning and laughter are starting to form an important part of patient/hospital care.

Laughter can increase lung capacity when used specifically with breathing techniques and can go deep into every corner of the body, releasing on many levels.

Here in a nutshell are some of the therapeutic and creative benefits of laughter:

 

L aughter releases endorphins, giving gives us the ‘feel good factor’

 

A cts as aerobic exercise and ‘internal jogging’

 

U nleashes inhibitions, breaks down barriers

 

G reat team building tool encourages better communication

 

H elps boost our immune system which helps us resist disease

 

T ones muscles, improves respiration and circulation

 

E ncourages positive thinking and creativity

 

R elaxes the whole body by reducing stress and tension

Putting life back into laughter – Where did we go wrong?

If we believe the statement, ‘laughter is the best medicine’ then we should all be doing it more! If we believe there is evidence to suggest that laughter can improve health and help fight disease we are instantly all converts, right? Sadly… wrong.

Research shows us that we are more serious now than we were 20 years ago and in fact over 55% of the 55+ age group say that they never have a proper belly laugh! It is said that babies can laugh up to 400 times a day and that as adults we laugh an average of 14! So what has happened to all those laughs?

As infants and children we use laughter as a way of exploring our fascinating new environment. Everything is new and different and much of what we see and hear seems ridiculous and surprising, which often strikes us as funny. As we grow older we become more familiar with our environments, more responsible at school age and then our hormones kick in. The pre-teen and teenage years are almost universally awkward and we are constantly aware of how we are seen by our peers.

As we mature, our bodies and outlook grow and change. Since there is a certain amount of intelligence involved in "getting" a joke, our sense of humour becomes more sophisticated. By the time we are adults, we have experienced much of life, including tragedy and success. In keeping with these experiences, our sense of humour becomes more mature. We laugh at other people and ourselves in shared common predicaments such as rising house costs and relationships.

As adults we have lost our childlike wonder and sense of fun, and we often see life as serious. We get caught up in economic, political and social issues and are led by our culture or community. We feel we need to be accepted by our peers and so adapt our personalities to fit in with them. We are afraid to look through the eyes of a child and can find it difficult to laugh.

Depression, stress and insecurity are major factors that can strip us of laughter. Many of us do not see much to laugh about in our lives and we may have experienced trauma or lack of love and joy. Our high-pressured society does not lend itself easily to supporting laughter and humour. By joining laughter clubs, experiencing laughter and comedy sessions and inducing laughing by ourselves, we can overcome our boundaries to laughing more freely.

Laugh Alive sessions are created and run throughout the year by Amanda Bate - both independently and where designed - with a team of qualified professionals.  Workshops and classes include the ‘Laughter Gym’ plus Transformational Arts, Creative Laughter and Connected Breathing workshops catered to individuals, groups, businesses and organisations throughout the country. For more details visit Amanda’s website at  http://www.laughtergym.com/







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