Laughter is, by definition, “the act of making sounds from the throat while breathing out, in short bursts or gasps as a way of expressing amusement,” meaning it is the expression of happiness and enjoyment.
Laughing helps the body to relax and release endorphins in the blood stream, making it easier to cope with and reduce the symptoms of stress.
Concerning its impact on the brain, several zones are affected by the act of laughing. Two structures of the limbic system are involved; dysfunctions in the amygdala region is linked to disorders such as depression and Parkinson’s, and in the hippocampus result in mental illnesses like Alzheimer's and schizophrenia.
Have you ever seen someone laughing and felt the need to laugh as well, without even knowing the reason behind their laugh? This is what happens when mirror neurons in the brain are stimulated, causing the contagious nature of laughter.
Numerous studies had been conducted leading to what we call today “laughter therapy.” This therapy is available in both individual and group sessions, and has the aim to make people laugh, reduce stress levels and improve interpersonal skills.
Laughter therapy cannot replace conventional therapies completely, but it has been proven to be a helpful way to recovery.
In fact, the body is not able to distinguish between a fake and a real laugh. Therefore, by faking one it is possible to obtain the same beneficial effects. A normal session starts by deep breathing and stretching exercises, then continues by initiating various types and techniques of laughters.
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An old study led by Dr. Lee Berk of Loma Linda University Medical Centre California, showed that cortisol - the hormone released when under stress - in the blood samples of five experimental subjects that watched an hour-long comedy was lower than the five control subjects that did not watch.
Laughter therapy is suitable for all ages. It teaches you that “laugh is not a synonym for ‘happiness’,” and that a forced laugh in the face of your stress, your anger and your problems is beneficial and lifts your mood.
By laughing, you are not changing your circumstances, but you are outgrowing and accepting them. You are changing your perspective of seeing them.
Choosing to laugh will at first relieve tension, but in the long term it becomes a practice to survive daily struggles and make one able to realize that the glass is half full, never half empty.
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