The Basics of Laughter Therapy

Everyone knows a good laugh is good for the soul, but did you know there was actually a therapy termed "laughter therapy," where laughter is employed as a tool for mental health? Groups and therapists around the world are embracing the therapeutic value of laughter.

In India, you can join a laughter group that meets each morning for a good belly laugh before you set off to work. In the United States, you can sign up for laughter therapy with your therapist and learn how to relieve tension through gallows humor as you discuss your troubles. In the United Kingdom, you can go to group laughter therapy sessions where everyone encourages each other to see the lighter side of life, and of course, laugh.

But why embrace laughter in such an aggressive manner? What good does laughter really do? Can laughter be forced in therapeutic sessions?

Scientists have been studying the impact of a good laugh and have found it reduces the levels of cortisol (a hormone produced by your body when exposed to high levels of stress), lowers blood pressure, boosts your immune system (enabling you to fight off illness and recover from sickness more quickly) and releases endorphins, which act like natural pain killers. With such stellar psychological benefits, who wouldn't want to laugh more?

Stress therapy specialists say laughter therapy is one of the best available ways to release tension. While it is impossible to induce laughter when a person is truly sad or disturbed, learning to laugh at your problems can be a valuable part of the entire therapy process. You may need to cry and vent anger in a therapy session, but ending the session with a well-timed laugh at your situation may empower you to continue on. By working respectfully and carefully with patients, more and more mental health therapists are incorporating laughter therapy into their repertoire of techniques.

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There's no reason too small to consider working with a therapist, but be sure to do some research to find a good therapist who's trained in the type of therapy best suited for your issues and remember that you're in control: if you don't benefit from your intial session, stop and choose another therapist.

If you are worried about choosing the right mental health therapist, take the time to find someone who is right for you.

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