A familiar old saying goes: “Laughter is the best medicine.” In 1995, Indian physician Dr. Madan Kataria combined this premise with a core hypnosis concept that the body can’t tell the difference between what the mind imagines or encounters for real. Today the result is more than 6000 laughter yoga clubs in over 60 countries and many recognized health benefits to laughter, including:
- reduced stress
- elevated mood
- improved circulation
- lowered blood pressure
- strengthened immune system
- greater energy and stamina
- enhanced creativity
And now, according to a recent British study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, and reported in the New York Times, evidence suggests you can increase pain threshold with prolonged laughter, just as with hypnosis. The research methodology focused on the most obvious mechanism, namely that laughter creates endorphins (plus serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin). Endorphins are medically recognized as a natural pain killer.
An interesting aspect of the study is the finding that more endorphins are created when laughter is experienced in a group rather than alone. Also, there is a direct correlation between the amount of increased endorphin production and the extent of pain threshold elevation. To be clear, nobody is suggesting using laughter instead of surgical anesthesia or in place of other qualified medical or mental health care. Like hypnosis, laughter is useful as a complementary or integrative approach.One notably peculiar conclusion of this study is that the laughter has to be genuine. This contradicts the principle cited above that the body can’t tell the difference between something real or vividly imagined. At this point, there is much more evidence supporting this mind/body connection so I would argue that rather than disproving it, the new research simply does not confirm it. Like most studies, it is said that more research is called for in this area. I will happily volunteer! In fact, in addition to being a clinical and medical hypnotist by profession, as a hobby I am also a certified laughter yoga class leader and often combine the two when working with clients.
The culture of laughter yoga is that classes are free. They are open to all ages and fitness levels and require no prior experience or knowledge of traditional yoga. Instead of doing stretching and posing, laughter yoga classes involve childlike playfulness with endless varieties of pretexts for simulated laughter, laughing on purpose, and many different types or deliveries of laughter. Like yawning, laughter triggers mirror neurons that tend to make it contagious.
If you’d like to recommend laughter yoga for any of your clients or patients, local classes are currently held Mondays, 4:45pm, at Om Shala Yoga, 858 10th Street, Arcata; and Wednesdays, 8:30am, at Church of the Joyful Healer, 1944 Central Ave, McKinleyville.
Another old saying goes: “He who laughs last, laughs best.” The updated version is: “She who laughs most, feels best!”
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NOTE: This article was adapted from an earlier and shorter version at Manifest Positivity for submission to the Spring 2013 newsletter of the North Coast Association of Mental Health Professionals.
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Dave Berman, C.Ht. practices Clinical and Medical Hypnosis, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Life Coaching. He is certified by the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association and an associate member of the North Coast Association of Mental Health Professionals. Dave offers private and confidential sessions on a sliding scale in his Arcata, CA office and remotely via Skype. Referrals and inquiries are welcome. Learn more at www.HumboldtHypnosis.com or call (707) 845-3749 for a free consultation.