What is laughter therapy?

Laughter is supposed to beneficial to people, because it relieves stress and anxiety, lowers pain and is supposed to boost the immune system. But what exactly is laughter therapy? Moneybags journalist, Ashleigh Brown, takes a look at this funny therapy to see if laughing is really good for us.

 

The old adage goes, “laughter is the best medicine,” and that might very well be true. Laughter’s significance has been recognised by difference scientists and philosophers through the ages, such as Aristotle, Darwin and Freud.  It is often used with patients who suffer from depression as it lowers blood pressure and releases endorphins to help them feel better.

But besides leaving you feeling a little happier, and giving your face a good workout, there are other benefits to laughing, and now there are even therapy classes designed specially with laughing in mind. The Laughter4Africa campaign says that there are many benefits to laughing. Some include:

  • Improved respiration
  • Stimulation of digestion and your metabolism
  • Promotion of sleep
  • Helping your muscles to relax

Often time laughter and physical yoga are done in combination, to strengthen all aspects of the body. Laughter yoga is a yoga class in where deep breathing and laughing exercises are conducted. Normally, an ice-breaker or introduction is made forcing people to laugh. Soon though, the laugh becomes more natural, allowing people to release pent up energy according to the Laughter Yoga University website.

Laughter incites the brain to release feel-good hormones which has an overall implication on your health, explains a handbook on laughter yoga. It is also a way to relieve stress caused by work and living in busy society.

Stress, an increasing concern in today’s society, can cause skin problems, high blood pressure, digestive problems, and even heart problems. This is one of the reasons as to why laughter yoga is becoming more popular. Another is that it is simple and easy to do, and can be done in the comfort of your home, with many YouTube videos available online.

Medical benefits

However, laughter therapy has been used to combat more serious aliments as well. In one instance, it was used to help stroke patients.

“After exposure to laughter therapy over a four-month period, I found a reduction in stress levels, depression, diabetes and blood pressure, among some of the participants. Because Laughter improves the lung capacity and oxygen levels in the blood, some of the participants reported a reduced frequency of asthmatic attacks and in the use of nebulisers,” says Dr. Gourie Suraj-Narayan, senior lecturer at the School of Social Work and Community Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Dr. Suraj-Narayan further explained that the laughter therapy helped the stroke patients gain better mobility and in some cases to walk without walking aids. Furthermore, her findings also found that the patients had improved communication skills and the laughter therapy also helped with speech problems induced from the stroke.

As laughter therapy does not require any equipment, or even a set space, it is easy for many people to access and practice. This is especially important with regards to health care practitioners who might not have available equipment on hand.

“Since laughter yoga and therapy do not require any specific equipment or resources it was found to be the most cost-effective and economical therapy in working with stroke patients. In view of the positive impacts of laughter yoga and therapy it is recommended that social workers, psychologists and health practitioners incorporate laughter yoga and therapy in promoting health and wellness through counselling psychotherapy, group work and community development,” says Dr. Suraj-Narayan.

Classes in your area

As laughter yoga works best with a group of people – as laughter is contagious – there are only group laughter classes available. These can be found all around South Africa, but need to be booked in advance. Furthermore, laughter yoga is used as corporate team-building activities. In Cape Town these are offered through Tri-Active Events Management. To book a group session, click here.

However, the City Bowl Laughter Club is available and open to anyone who would like to join. There are classes every Tuesday from 7:30am to 8:00am, at the Seapoint Promenade. For more information, click here.

LaughSA offers laughter classes in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. In order to find specific dates, click here. Laughter Therapy in Port Elizabeth also has team-building and ice-breaker exercises. In order to enquire about dates and times, click here.

“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine,” said the poet Lord Byron, and laughter yoga has proven that that is true. From health benefits to relieving stress and anxiety, laughter yoga is a simple and easy form of exercise, which everyone can partake in.