"Laughter activates the body’s natural relaxation response. It’s like internal jogging, providing a good massage to all internal organs while also toning abdominal muscles." - Dr. Gulshan Sethi, Head of cardiothoracic surgery, Tucson Medical Center.
“The magnitude of change we saw in the endothelium is similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic activity, but without the aches, pains and muscle tension associated with exercise. We don’t recommend that you laugh and not exercise, but we do recommend that you try to laugh on a regular basis. Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week, and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis is probably good for the vascular system.” - Dr. Michael Miller, Director of Preventive Cardiology, University of Maryland Medical Center.
Laughing is an excellent way to reduce stress in our lives, and can help you to cope with and survive a stressful lifestyle.
Laughter provides a full-scale workout for your muscles and unleashes a rush of stress-busting endorphins. Since our bodies cannot distinguish between real and fake laughter, anything that makes you giggle will have a positive impact. You do not need to be happy or have a sense of humor to benefit from a good laugh.
Laughter therapy aims to get people laughing in both group and individual sessions and can help reduce stress, make people and employees happier and more committed, as well as improve their interpersonal skills.
Investigation and Research
Norman Cousins, celebrated political writer
In 1979, Cousins published a book Anatomy of an Illness in which he described a potentially fatal disease he contracted in 1964 and his discovery of the benefits of humor and other positive emotions in battling the disease. Cousins found, for example, that ten minutes of mirthful laughter gave him two hours of pain-free sleep. His story baffled the scientific community and inspired a number of research projects.
Dr William F. Fry, psychiatrist, Stanford University, California
Dr Fry began to examine the physiological effects of laughter in the late 1960s and is considered the father of “gelotology” (the science of laughter). Dr Fry proved that mirthful laughter provides good physical exercise and can decrease your chances of respiratory infections. He showed that laughter causes our body to produce endorphins (natural painkillers).
Dr Lee Berk, Loma Linda University Medical Centre
Inspired by Norman Cousins, Dr Berk and his team of researchers from the field of psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI) studied the physical impact of mirthful laughter.
In one study heart attack patients were divided into two groups: one half was placed under standard medical care while the other half watched humorous videos for thirty minutes each day. After one year the ‘humor’ group had fewer arrhythmias, lower blood pressure, lower levels of stress hormones, and required lower doses of medication. The non-humor group had two and a half times more recurrent heart attacks than the humor group (50% vs. 20%).
Dr Hunter (Patch) Adams
Immortalized in film by Robin Williams, Patch inspired millions of people by bringing fun and laughter back into the hospital world and putting into practice the idea that “healing should be a loving human interchange, not a business transaction”. He is the founder and director of the Gesundheit Institute, a holistic medical community that has been providing free medical care to thousands of patients since 1971. He is the catalyst for the creation of thousands of therapeutic care clowns worldwide.
Dr Annette Goodheart
Goodheart is a psychotherapist and inventor of laughter therapy and laughter coaching. For 36 years, she has been using laughter to treat cancer, AIDS, depression, and other illnesses and been teaching at universities, schools, companies, organizations and public events, bringing laughter to every part of the world.
Dr Madan Kataria, creator of Laughter Yoga
In March 1995 this medical doctor from Mumbai, India was writing an article Laughter - The Best Medicine for a health journal. In particular, he was impressed by Norman Cousins’ book Anatomy of an Illness and the research work by Dr Berk. Dr Kataria discovered that the body cannot differentiate between acted and genuine laughter. He then created a range of laughter exercises including elements of role-play and other techniques from his days as an amateur dramatic actor. Realizing the importance of child-like playfulness, he developed further techniques to stimulate this within a group. Laughter Yoga was born and is now accepted all over the world.
Oxford University/Royal Society
In September 2011, academics from Oxford University published research demonstrating that continuous laughter significantly increases people’s pain threshold, by as much as 10%.
The Healing Power of Laughter
While laughter is your friend for years, you might not fully realize that it can be helpful in ways you never realized or imagined.
Laughter can help you feel better about yourself and the world around you. Laughter can be a natural diversion. When you laugh, no other thought comes to mind. Laughing can also induce physical changes in the body. After laughing for only a few minutes, you may feel better for hours.
According to the numerous studies, laughter therapy may provide physical benefits, such as helping to:
* Boost the immune system and circulatory system
* Enhance oxygen intake
* Stimulate the heart and lungs
* Relax muscles throughout the body
* Trigger the release of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers)
* Ease digestion/soothes stomach aches
* Relieve pain
* Balance blood pressure
* Improve mental functions (i.e., alertness, memory, creativity)
Laughter therapy may also help to:
* Improve overall attitude
* Reduce stress/tension
* Promote relaxation
* Improve sleep
* Enhance quality of life
* Strengthen social bonds and relationships
* Produce a general sense of well-being
Note that you have to start slow and carefully, if you work in the group setting. Many of these exercises might be negatively judged by the group members at first, if you practice them too early in your laughter sessions. So, don’t get too weird too fast. Wait at least 10 minutes.
Therefore, it is recommended to proceed to the activities in three phases focusing on the visual perception of the people in the group.
The session starts with clapping of hands in a rhythm to activate acupuncture points and activate people for further phases. Eye-contact is maintained during all phases.
Deep-breathing exercises are recommended during this phase. It helps lighten the mood and relax your lungs. These exercises help us increase focus on our day-to-day activities.
This phase we are right! Laughing like a child playfully without any reason is the main aim of this phase.
The list of the exercises below will help you to get started with the self or group training, encouraging playful silliness.
1. 1-cm. Laugh: only one short “ha”. People usually laugh because this is unexpected.
2. 1-meter laugh
3. Age Laughter: Imagine how your laugh would sound when you are double your current age; half of your current age; 10/20/30 years older; ten years younger; as a child; as an infant; 95 / 5.
4. Airline Safety Instruction Laugh: first in English, then in French
5. Alphabet Laughter: letter off from A to Z; vowels come forth and sound; consonants sound.
6. Animal Laughter: donkey; pig snorts; dog woofs; Cheshire cat caterwauls; hoot owls; chimpanzees; gorillas
7. Ants in Your Pants
8. Appreciation Laughter: look at others as you laugh and appreciate each other. This is a value-based laughter, reminding the participants how important it is to appreciate others. The tip of the index finger is joined with the tip of the thumb, making a small circle. The hand is moved forward and backwards in jerks while looking at different members and laughing in a very gentle manner, appreciating your fellow beings
9. Argument Laughter: The leader presents an absurd scenario and seeks a number of volunteers. Two volunteers begin by arguing with each other with laughter and pointing at each other. Substitutes can take their places, or, eventually, two teams can argue against each other, pointing index fingers. Alternately, you don’t need a scenario and you can argue hypothetically.
10. Balloon-popping laughter: 2 people try to pop each other’s imaginary balloons that you imagine are attached to their ankles.
11. Basketball Throw: someone throws an air basketball and everyone either cheers or groans, depending on whether the shot sunk or missed.
12. Beethoven’s Fifth: Ha ha ha haaaaaaaa, ha ha ha haaaa
13. Belly Laughs
14. Body Scan Laughter: be aware of and/or laugh from hair, scalp, forehead, eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth, throat; shoulders, arms, chest, stomach, gut, hips, legs, feet, toes, toenails, skin. Body scan can also include: nasal laughter, humming, yawning, coughing, etc.
15. Boo-Hoo Laughter: stand, then fake a sad “boo-hoo” while sliding down into a crouch, then laugh while you stand up; repeat a few times.
16. Bored Laughter: Fake it until you make it (sic).
17. Boss Quit Today: cheering is allowed
18. Bouncing tiger laughter (from Winnie the Pooh), both hands together, palms down, ahead of chest
19. Break March Laughter: A Sergeant-major starts by leading a group of soldiers in standing on the spot, directing them to “march left, … left, … left, right, left” and then, “ha, … ha, … ha ha ha”. The sergeant-major then instructs the soldiers to ‘break march’ when crossing a bridge, that is, everyone steps at their own random pace. The Sergeant-major takes the soldiers on a march where laughter is structured at first then becomes more spontaneous when they ‘break march’ when they cross the bridge
20. Broken Motor
21. Celebration Laughter: get everyone in the group to come close together and then tell them a secret, for example, “no work tomorrow” and then give high fives and jump around celebrating.
22. Cell Phone Laughter: Hold imaginary cell phones; move around to meet different people and interact while laughing; point to cellphone as if pointing to the person you’re talking to
23. Cha Cha Cha Ha Ha: Laugh as you dance a la cha cha cha.
24. Cheesecake Laughter: throw an imaginary cheesecake into someone’s face (cream pie can substitute; better still, a banana cream pie).
25. Cocktail Party Laughter: What do you imagine people talk about at cocktail parties? How do people stand? How do they Sound? What do you talk about at cocktail parties? Pick one topic to talk about. Group into threes and snicker with each other over imaginary drinks. Grasp one another’s fingers as if you had been told something just too precious.
26. Constipation Laughter: squat on an imaginary throne and let go with laughter.
27. Crying laughter (cry on the way down, laugh on the way up)
28. Dancers: “We’re all skilled dancers”. Everyone dances skillfully and with style while laughing
29. Don’t Laugh Too Hard Laughter: sometimes we need quiet or medium-volume laughter to not ‘bust a gut’.
30. Donkey Laugh: “ee-haw, ee-haw”.
31. Dr. Evil: raise a pinky to your chin and snicker. Similar to Evil Laughter where you rub your hands in a mischievous way
32. Drinking Straw Laugh place plastic drinking straw between your teeth.
33. Driving laughter (with 2 hands first, then putting one hand over eyes)
34. Dyslexic Laughter: swing both hands gently from side to side chanting ho ho ha ha ha, which engages both left and right brains.
35. Electric Shock: shake hands and imagine receiving an electric shock from touching the person’s hand.
36. Embarrassing Scenario: Recall an embarrassing incident and retell it, laughing at the end or throughout. For example, demonstrate a story of raising your hand while in the middle of a very large meeting and say: “I want to say something ……… but I seem to have forgotten what”, then laugh hysterically out of embarrassment or nervousness.
37. Emotional Release Laughter: get hit by a wave of emotion, such as insanity laughter, angry laughter, sad laughter or scared laughter.
38. Eyes Closed Laughter (when group trusts)
39. Face in Belly, imagine: imagine a face painted on your belly and that it is laughing uproariously.
40. Fake Laughter: insincere; “I don’t feel like laughing today”, then do it anyway. Grimace, smile, giggle.
41. Humming Laughter Sounds: Laugh as you hum, mouth closed. Play with the pitch, up and down the scale, feeling the vibrations resonate through your body. As you get more adapt at feeling the resonation, try and move it deliberately, through your chest, your jaw, your nose, your sinus cavities, your forehead, the top of your head, then back down again.
42. Laughter Breath: Inhale deeply, then exhale in a combination of first quick bursts of air coming out and finishing with vocal laughter. Repeat 5-7 times.
43. Laughter Vowels: Laugh the sound of the following laughter vowels. Let’s start with: “A” as in “papa”: Aaaaa ha ha ha ha ha. Then “E” as in “free”: Eeeee he he he he he. Next is “I” as in “pie”: iiiii hi hi hi hi hi. Next is “O” as in “Bingo”: Ooooo ho ho ho ho ho. Last is “U” as in “soup”: Uuuuu hu hu hu hu hu. Excellent! Now repeat, but backwards.
44. Happy Memories Chuckle: Go back in time and find a truly happy memory, typically of a time when you felt safe, loved, surrounded by people you loved, and when you all laughed. Take time to connect with this memory, laughing now as if you were back then. It normally takes 90-120 seconds to start to recreate the associated emotions.
45. Hearty Laughter: Make an elongated “aeeee” sound as you slowly lift both arms all the way up, then laugh heartily with your hands pointed to the sky. Imagine that your laughter is coming straight from your heart.
46. Back Pain Laughter: Lean forward and put your hand on your lower back, then laugh as if you could not stand back up.
47. Conductor Laughter: Imagine you are a conductor. Direct an imaginary orchestra with enthusiastic arm movements as you sing any song of your choice in laughter sounds only e.g. ho ho ho or "ha ha ha".
48. Ear-Wiggle Laughter: Slowly slide your left hand upward along the left side of your head, slowly going over your head as you say an extended "aeeee" sound, then laugh as you wiggle your right ear with your left fingers. Do the same on the other side. Repeat a few times.
49. Laughter Pill: Take some laughter pills! Each pill has a unique effect and makes you laugh and jerk in a peculiar way for just a few seconds. Try another one as soon as the effects wear off.
50. Vowel Movement Laughter: Have you had your vowel movement today? Laugh in the tonality of the following sounds: Eee Eee Eee Eee! Aye aye aye aye! Ah ah ah ah! Ho ho ho ho! Ooo ooo ooo ooo! Uh uh uh uh!
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