Thursday, October 2, 2008

Laughter is still the best medicine!

Lotte laughs on the phone!
Laughter is still the best medicine!
The St Albans Laughter Club are sending their unique form of therapy down the line with a new venture.
The credit crunch, financial crisis, violent crime, anger management – it seems that all there ever is these days is bad news, and anybody would be forgiven for feeling a bit miserable.
Well, the St Albans Laughter Club claim to have the best remedy, and the clue is in the title!
Following the success of their monthly laughter sessions, the club are now sending chuckles down the line with the launch of the Telephone Laughter Club.

Every weekday morning at 7.00am you can dial into a conference call where you can laugh along with others in an alternative therapy that will really set you up for the day!

Laughter Clubs were started in India in 1995 by Dr Madan Kataria, who was doing research into the health benefits of laughter.
Lotte Mikkelsen set up her Laughter Club in St Albans in 2004 after seeing the success of similar clubs in her native Denmark, where they have about 250 clubs all over the country.

A laid back affair.
Now, every second Sunday of the month, in a quiet residential street in Bricket Wood, giggle devotees gather to just laugh, in exercises and meditations guided by Lotte, in sessions that are completely free of charge! The idea is that the laughter is de-stressing, and as a result people become more creative and productive and are better able to deal with the challenges of every day life.

It has been so popular that Lotte has now decided to take it further so that people can laugh on a more regular basis.
“The reason for starting the Telephone Laughter Club is that the laughter club is only once a month and to get all the benefits on an on-going basis you really want to do this every day” explained Lotte.

“With the monthly Laughter Club we meet in person and go through certain laughter exercises. In the telephone laughter club it’s free laughter straight away - and it’s only five minutes!
“It costs 5p per minute so that’s about £1.50 a week” she added.
“And I think it’s definitely worth it because the benefits you gain from it are unbelievable.
“It gives you this boost, you feel great, you feel relaxed and you feel that you can cope with anything.”

Lotte explained that the benefits of laughter are that it relaxes you, boosts your creativity and strengthens your muscles. But how does this work?
“It reduces your stress levels because when you’re stressed your cortisol stress hormone level is really, really high” Lotte revealed.
“When we laugh we release endorphins which suppress the cortisol, and that’s why we feel relaxed.

“It doesn’t make the problems go away of course” she added, “because they are still going to be there, but you are much more capable of actually dealing with the problems because you can sit back and take a look at them from a completely different perspective.”

Many people are now buying into this idea and as a result, Lotte now runs laughter workshops for companies and organisations to de-stress their employees and promote team-building.
The concept of laughing for no reason is also said to heighten creativity because you are using the side of the brain that is used for this. Lotte explained how this worked.

“When Laughter Clubs started in 1995, they started laughing by telling jokes” she said.
“But the thing about telling jokes is that it engages the left side of the brain which deals with logic and judging and you decide whether it’s funny or not. And that’s one of the reasons that it didn’t work that well at first because people were thinking about whether to laugh or not.
“So they had to come up with a completely different concept and came up with laughing for no reason. And by doing that you engage the right side of the brain.

Tears of laughter, honest!
“This is one of the reasons why we just start laughing on the phone. When I phone into the Telephone Laughter Club I just start laughing straight away instead of saying good morning or anything. I just start laughing because it’s just engaging the right side of the brain.”

And relaxation and creativity are not the only positive results of laughing. According to Lotte, when we laugh we are much more social, and just because her new venture means that you are laughing on your own on the phone, it doesn’t mean you are isolated.

“Because we’re on the phone we are by ourselves but we still connect with people in some way” she said.
“And it also makes you feel more up for connecting with people during the day. I can certainly recommend it.”
And then there are the physical benefits too, as Lotte revealed.
“I read an article where it said that if you want to train your inner most abdomen muscles, which are the core muscles that are really, really important to keep firm, then the only way that you can do that properly is not by sit ups, it’s by having a good belly laugh” she said.
And also, according to Lotte, research shows that two minutes laughing is equivalent to 20 minutes on the rowing machine so you can replace your gym visits with laughing! Result!

In India there are about 3,500 laughter clubs where people laugh every day but Lotte admits that in the UK, if we have ten active laughter clubs we’re probably quite lucky. So why is this? Why do the British find it difficult to just laugh?

“I think that it’s a challenge to run it here in the UK but at the same time it’s a fun challenge. It takes a bit longer to get people into the idea that you can actually do this and it’s OK to look a bit silly and maybe foolish” suggested Lotte.
“Most of us have this fa├žade where we think that this is how the world sees us and we shouldn’t step outside that, and when you get into the Laughter Club, you have to break that barrier down.

“When I start dialling in [to the Telephone Laughter Club] I think to myself that this is a really, really a silly thing to do! And maybe it’s that thought that just inspires the laughter.
“I get into that frame of mind where I think it’s easy to laugh because it is really silly, but it’s a good silly thing. Silly is not just for children, it’s for everybody. We get so, so serious when we grow up and it’s about time that we got a little bit more playful! We’re much, much better at dealing with problems if we are a bit playful and have a little bit of fun.

“We build up a lot of challenges in our lives, which come up and face us and we think we can’t deal with them, so I think it’s definitely something that people should dial into. There’s room for 250 people on the conference call!”

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