Therapeutic Laughter - Have you already laughed today?
In the last two decades there has been a significant increase in awareness about mental health. More and more information is circulating about how to prevent certain psychopathologies and where we can seek help to meet our needs. It is also known that much ground has been covered in terms of how to intervene with patients seeking help for their mental health.
The administration of drugs and therapeutic accompaniment appear as the two main areas of response, however, over time other types of response have emerged, which are currently called alternative/complementary therapies. Some examples of these therapies are Acupuncture, Aromatherapy, Meditation, and the subject of this article, Laughter Therapy or Yoga. Laughter Therapy was developed by Dr. Madan Kataria in India in 1995. One of the main principles of this approach is that simulated laughter (the one you are not spontaneous) produces as many benefits for the human body as genuine laughter, such as reducing levels of stress-related hormones (Bressington et al., 2019). A Laughter Therapy session begins with diaphragmatic breathing and body activation exercises, then more dynamic exercises in the theme of Laughter Therapy follow, and finally ends with a moment of body relaxation. As an example, we share some of these exercises.
Laughter Gradient: fake a smile, add a sound of laughter and then slowly and gradually increase the rhythm and volume of laughter.
Phone Laugh: imagine you take a call on your imaginary phone and instead of talking, laugh, as if you were laughing at something extremely funny.
Mental Floss: it serves to clear our mind. Take an imaginary mental wire, make it go in one ear and out the other. Start clearing it to the sound of "HA HA HA".
The scientific community, realizing the popularity of laughter yoga, wanted to publish the positive results of studies that included this therapeutic approach. In 2020, published by Nilgün Kuru Alici (2020), a systematic review appeared consisting of a total of 3210 studies that involved the effect of laughter yoga. The results showed that laughter yoga has a positive effect in aspects related not only to physical function (blood pressure, cortisol levels and sleep quality), but also to psychosocial health (life satisfaction, quality of life, loneliness, anxiety about death and happiness levels). The therapeutic effect of laughter yoga has also been verified in psychopathologies such as depression and anxiety (Bressington et al., 2019). More specifically, the systematic review by Bahari and Lorica (2019), reports that laughter yoga contributed to the following domains:
Cognitive stimulation: improvement in memory capacity, creative thinking and problem solving.
Positive emotions: improvement in mood, self-esteem, hope, vital energy and life satisfaction.
Interpersonal relationships: improvement in group identity, attraction between people and solidarity.
Stress reduction: decreased levels of aggressiveness and anxiety.
In addition to all the positive aspects mentioned above, one of the main advantages of Laughter Therapy is the fact that it is cheap and very easy to perform. Finally, we leave the challenge for you to apply the exercises that were described with your friends, family, or even individually. Take care of your mental health with lots of therapeutic laughter.
What are you waiting for to laugh today? After all, laughter costs nothing!
Bahari, K. & Lorica, J. (2019). The effects of laughter therapy on mental health: An integrative literature review. The Malaysian Journal of Nursing, 10(3), 55-61, https://doi.org/10.31674/mjn.2019.v10i03.008
Bressington, D., Mui, J., Yu, C., Leung, S. F., Cheung, K., Wu, C. S. T., Bollard, M., & Chien, W. T. (2019). Feasibility of a group-based laughter yoga intervention as an adjunctive treatment for residual symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress in people with depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 248, 42–51. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.JAD.2019.01.030
Kuru Alici, N. & Arikan Dönmez, A. (2020). A systematic review of the effect of laughter yoga on physical function and psychosocial outcomes in older adults. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 41. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.CTCP.2020.101252