Laughter: the best medicine?

17 January 2017

Interview with

Zoe Harris, Laughter Yoga Instructor

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While there is no Universal theory of what makes something funny, we do know it's good to have a giggle when you can, so the Naked Scientists were treated to a laughter yoga session from teacher Zoe Harris. First, Georgia Mills heard about the benefits from neuroscientist Sophie Scott.

Sophie - It definitely de-stresses you. So what happens when you’ve been laughing is you get a bit of an endorphin kick because you’ve been doing some exercise. You also get a reduction in adrenaline so you become less stressed. But also, over a longer timescale you get a decrease in cortisol release so that’s a longer time hallmark of becoming just less stressed generally. So it definitely is something that it doesn’t just feel good, you are actually more relaxed and less stressed out at the end of it.

Georgia - Well, a type of yoga relies on this very  idea- you force yourself to L O L, to get some of these benefits. Earlier in the week The Naked Scientist team had a little outing to their first ever laughter yoga session…

Zoe - Hello. My name is Zoe Harris and I teach laughter yoga. Laughter yoga can basically be boiled down to a series of funny exercises. So think of improv, think of acting in a foolish way, repetitive exercises that perhaps you don’t find funny at first, but you soon will.

What the laughter is supposed to do is it has two effects on the body. So physically, you’re inhaling a lot more oxygen, you’re using more of your lung capacity, so it’s oxygenating the blood, it’s helping you feel more energised. It has a real positive effect on the body in terms of psychological benefits as well because the process of laughing helps reduce the stress hormones in the body so it’s helping you feel less conscious, less anxious, more confident about yourself. And physically also, the process of laughing from the deep belly and the diaphragm so you’re exercising muscles internally, but especially your heart muscle as well. And it is said that your one minute of laughter is worth ten minutes on the rowing machine for your heart, so that’s good news.

It’s literally tricking your brain into doing it. So when you start a lot of exercises you think oh, this is quite embarrassing, I don’t want to do it. That you laugh anywhere, your body starts laughing so you just fake it till you make it really.

Tom - Yeah, it was interesting. It was interesting how you switched from sort of artificial laughter to somebody starting to crack and then it just spreads around the room. You do really feel it in your stomach afterwards and you’ve definitely been laughing.

Graihagh - The highlight for me was the Hawaii - what was it Aloha,ha ha ha ha. Like that. And the bees - I quite liked the bees. I think I’d do that at work if I was getting stressed about something.

Dotty- I thought the bees were really good as well when you hum like a bee and close your ears. It was quite odd but I do feel a lot better than when I started. I’ve maybe gone from a pretty low four out of ten up to a kind of a seven, so that says something.

Lucille- It was really good. There was a bit where we were looking silly but… a really nice time and with nice people.

Megan - I’m definitely going to practice it when I get home and freak out my house mates.

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