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Health THE HEALING POWER OF LAUGHTER Theres a lot to be said for having a good laugh. We look into how laughter brings about changes in your body that can help ease perceptions of pain, and how we can begin to see the funny side WORDS: Louise Parfitt LEARNING TO LAUGH AGAIN It can be hard to see the funny side when you are in pain, or frustrated because your body cant do as much as you want it to do. Lotte Mikkelsen, founder of UnitedMind, knows this only too well. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008, she now practises laughter yoga daily and was one of the UKs first laughter yoga teachers. Laughing nurtures our physical, mental and emotional state, she says. It releases a bio-chemical cocktail dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins that has a truly fantastic effect on our body and mind. It lowers stress, boosts our immune system and allows us to connect with others. Mikkelsens laughter yoga uses deep-breathing techniques similar to those used in yoga clapping, and playful laughter exercises. Its OK if people dont feel like laughing: simply looking around at people and smiling is a great place to start, because the simple action of raising your lips in a smile has also been proven to be beneficial, she says. People have told me how much better they feel after these sessions. I see the change in peoples eyes. I do a laughter session every morning and find I am then in a much better place to face the day. Find out more about laughter yoga sessions, including the daily laughter telephone club, at laughteryoga.co.uk W e laugh before we can talk, walk or even clap. Laughter breaks down barriers, its contagious, and it is mighty good for us. In the same way that we need decent food, exercise, sleep and social networks for our health and wellbeing, the need for laughter is of equal importance, according to Dr Sam Watts, founder of Mind Body Medical. Laughter has been shown to induce a sense and state of safety and protection in the nervous system of the body that boosts immunity, optimises healthboosting gamma brainwave activity, 6 Inspire Autumn 22 pp06-07 Laughter.indd 6 16/08/2022 16:41