COMPLEMENTARY | Laughter yoga LAUGHTER ... LAUGHTER FOR GOOD HEALTH AND WELLBEING LAUGHTER I f we...

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  • FHT.ORG.UK40 INTERNATIONAL THERAPIST SPRING 2018

    COMPLEMENTARY | Laughter yoga

    IS THE BEST MEDICINE LOTTE MIKKELSEN LOOKS AT THE BENEFITS OF

    LAUGHTER FOR GOOD HEALTH AND WELLBEING

    LAUGHTER

    I f we want to experience the health benefi ts of laughter, then full-on mirthful laughter is the answer.

    There is a real buzz when people come together in a laughter club. The air is thick

    with anticipation; some people are anxious or excited while others are thrilled to be back with like-minded people. In a laughter club we practise laughter yoga, which takes its name from a combination of deep breathing techniques, originating from yoga, and playful laughter exercises.

    Laughter yoga began in 1995 when a medical doctor in India, Madan Kataria, invited a group of people to share the benefi ts of laughter in his local park in Mumbai. Although this started off with just fi ve people, the movement grew rapidly and now laughter yoga is practised in more than 100 countries in regular laughter clubs.

    In the UK there are just under 100 laughter clubs across the country, run voluntarily by people trained as certifi ed laughter yoga leaders and teachers. But there is still so much work to do in sharing laughter yoga, with fewer than 1,500 certifi ed professionals in the UK.

    MY JOURNEY My own journey with laughter yoga started in January 2008 when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Having been close to MS in the past – my sister was diagnosed in 1989 and died in 1991 – I started researching the options of laughter as a stress management tool. The Telephone Laughter Club was launched in September 2008 and since then has laughed Monday to Friday from 7am to 7.10am. Laughing on the phone created a unique structure for me to lower stress chemicals and build up my immune defence and resilience to avoid the relapses that happen in people living with MS when stress and low resistance are present.

    I have been fortunate to work with the MS Society when it has included laughter yoga at many of its events. It would be fantastic to see laughter yoga as part of the treatment

    programme for people living with MS but for the time being, we laugh on occasions and encourage self-care and self-healing through the use of therapeutic laughter.

    REDISCOVERING LAUGHTER More and more people experience a lack of laughter and joy in their lives, alongside a constant search for happiness and contentment. This is usually a search outside of the self, which falls fl at when happiness isn’t achieved. Many people also experience loneliness that can lead to ill health – physical, mental and emotionally. This is a great opportunity for laughter yoga to help.

    I hear people say they have lost connection with their sense of humour or have not laughed in a very long time. When we revisit their most recent true belly laugh, many people have to go way back.

    Today, many people fi nd it a challenge to dig into the depth of their abdomen to produce belly laughter. We are a nation of control freaks who do not willingly let ourselves go in the company of strangers.

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  • FHT.ORG.UK 41SPRING 2018 INTERNATIONAL THERAPIST

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    Lotte Mikkelsen is the founder of UnitedMind. She is a laughter ambassador and a laughter yoga master trainer, running laughter-based courses

    and workshops across the UK, including laughter clubs and telephone laughter. lottemikkelsen.com

    IN PRACTICE We can start by simply practising laughter exercises that tickle our playfulness and trigger our sense of feeling good. The decision to laugh may start off with a pretend laugh, which in essence is saying ha-ha, ho-ho, he-he or hu-hu repeatedly. People will fi nd that this often leads to genuine laughter.

    A very easy exercise when you wake up in the morning is simply to stretch and wriggle

    your toes and fi ngers, telling them good morning. When you stretch you

    kick-start your body’s engine and circulation – fl exibility

    and mobility is being nurtured. Adding

    the little ‘good morning’

    gives you a sense of

    endure more pain. This is because of the increased levels of endorphins, the so-called happy hormone and a natural painkiller, released when we laugh (Dunbar, 2012).

    Slovenian research shows the potential of laughter yoga for people with type 2 diabetes. Practising laughter yoga inhibits the increase in postprandial blood glucose in patients with type 2 diabetes (ČokoliČ et al, 2013).

    Evidence also suggests that stress levels in cancer patients prior to chemotherapy can be controlled and lowered through regular practice of laughter yoga (Farifteh et al, 2014).

    Often in our stressful lives, we forget to breathe deeply. A laugh is a great extended exhalation, allowing additional air to leave the lungs and create space for the inhalation of fresh air, which then circulates throughout the body. With more oxygen to the brain, you feel refreshed, alert, motivated and productive. Laughter provides a wonderful platform for creating a positive outlook – and laughter yoga is for everyone.

    LEARN MORE AT FHT’S TRAINING CONGRESS Lotte will be running a laughter yoga workshop at the FHT’s Training Congress at this year’s Holistic Health Show on Monday 21 May. For more information and to book, visit fht.org.uk/congress

    awakening and gratitude. Next step is to smile at yourself in the mirror. Don’t just imagine it but do it every morning. Start laughing with your own mirrored image even if you simply play with different ways of laughing.

    When you fi nd your laughter, the moment is magical. But it may not happen overnight, it could take many days of practice.

    HEALTH BENEFITS Over the years, much research has been conducted on the effects of therapeutic laughter. Some studies were inspired by people recovering from health conditions who used laughter as part of their treatment plan. For example, author Norman Cousins found that 10 minutes of mirthful laughter gave him two hours of pain-free sleep.

    Cousins inspired Dr Lee Berk and his team of researchers working in the fi eld of psycho-neuro-immunology in the late

    1970s at Loma Linda University in California. They found that heart

    attack patients who practised scheduled laughter had

    fewer recurring heart attacks, reduced stress levels and lower blood pressure.

    In 2011, Professor Robin Dunbar and his team at the University of Oxford conducted a study on laughter and the pain threshold. It showed that following a big bout of belly laughing, you can

    REFERENCES For full references, go to fht.org.uk/IT-references

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