Of course, there are plenty of ways to do just that, from reaching out to others to practicing self-care and getting creative. But if you’re looking for a new approach to boosting your happiness, we might have just the activity for you – laughter therapy.
An approach to wellbeing which is designed to help relieve stress, boost mood and aid muscle relaxation, laughter therapy was first brought into the mainstream by Dr Madan Kataria who developed laughter therapy in Mumbai and set up the first ‘laughter yoga’ club in 1995.
Nowadays, it’s an approach which is often combined with other elements of qigong – an ancient Chinese healing and meditative practice, which roughly translates as “energy work”.
If you’ve never heard of it before it may sound a little strange, but stay with us. To practice laughter therapy, all you need to do is start laughing – either by mimicking the motion and sounds of laughter, or by doing the real thing. Most people who start off pretending will often find themselves laughing properly by the end of the session, but if not, it doesn’t matter – the body can’t tell the difference between fake laughter and the real thing.
Although laughter therapy isn’t the kind of treatment you’ll see prescribed on the NHS, there have been numerous studies proving its effectiveness as a way to lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone), as well as other benefits.
“Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles and increases your endorphin levels,” explains Katie Brindle, a Chinese medicine practitioner and founder of the Hayo’u method who runs laughter qigong sessions on her Instagram every weekday morning.
Brindle continues: “Laughter qigong is one of my favourite mind and body exercises. Aside from being incredibly funny and joyous and the surprise hit of our qigong sessions, laughter qigong has multiple healing benefits.”
On top of offering various mental health benefits, Brindle explains that laughter therapy has the power to boost our physical health, too. Indeed, some studies suggest that laughter has the power to ease pain and strengthen our immune system.
Even though you might feel like laughing is the last thing you want to do right now, it’s surprising how infectious it can be once you get started. Indeed, Brindle highlights, “the time when we feel like laughing the least, is often when we need it the most”.
And the best bit? It’s completely free.
While you can certainly pay to go to a laughter yoga or qigong class (at least when lockdown ends), there are a bunch of free sessions out there like those on Brindle’s Instagram.
And if you don’t fancy following an instructor, you can try it for yourself, right now. Simply sit back, start laughing and get ready to reap the benefits - you’ll be surprised how quickly that fake laugh evolves into a full-on chuckle.
For more information on laughter therapy and to take part in Katie Brindle’s livestream sessions at 8am on weekdays, check out her Instagram @katie_brindle.