In most area of your life the memorable times were almost certainly accompanied by laughter. This is especially true when you were with others, be they family or friends. Good times and laughter go hand in hand. Strengthening relationships goes hand-in-hand with laughter.
We know from our experience that laughter can foster relationships, especially between people who do not know each other. At conferences you will find the people who work together or know
each other clustered together in little groups. However, after a laughter session - laughter as an exercise without jokes - we have seen how the barriers between people break down and the huddles of people break up as everyone becomes more comfortable to start up conversations with strangers. Only, after laughing together the other person is no longer a stranger.
This simple tool can be exploited to great benefit in business; whenever a relationship needs to be built or fostered. Relationships in business lead to trust and greater sales. Use a facilitator or train a facilitator in-house to help develop business relationships.
Why is a good friend of mine afraid of chameleons? She has never been attacked by one and her reasoning brain tells her that her fear is irrational, but she will break down doors to get away from a chameleon. Where does this fear arise and why the violent reaction to fear?
Our long-term memory resides in our limbic brain or the hippocampal formation to be precise. This repository does not reason or discriminate between reality and fantasy, it just stores memories and the responses deemed appropriate. So, if someone you are dependent on in your early development creates an association of fear with an object (a chameleon), you will pull up this memory every time this object is presented. The limbic brain is also very fast. Remember when you were learning to ride a bicycle or drive a car and you were using your reasoning mind to carry out all the functions, it was difficult. But when these operations had been ‘learned’ by the limbic brain you could use your thinking mind to plan supper while driving home from work, no problem! Limbic memory is instantaneous; fear arises before you have even identified the source.
Another part of the limbic brain, the amygdala, is responsible for our survival. It hijacks all our other systems, including our reasoning brain, whenever we experience fear or anything stressful, for that matter. The task of the amygdala is to make us faster and stronger that we normally are to maximise our chance of survival (break down the door to escape the chameleon). It does this chemically through the secretion of cortisol and adrenalin. There are some 1400 chemical reactions related to these chemicals that work to make us faster and stronger so we can run or fight (fight or flight associated with fear).
Besides enhancing some of our physical systems (and suppressing others to conserve energy for the important systems), our thinking mind is also suppressed so that the learned behaviour patterns from our limbic memory are prioritised (even though these learned behaviours may be detrimental to your survival because they were learned on false premises: e.g. get away from chameleon at all costs to self and surroundings). And we experience negative emotions, in case any feelings of sympathy towards the “enemy” arise in our thoughts.
How many modern-day stressors require that we run or fight? So most of the work of the amygdala is in vain and counter-productive. Worse, cortisol and the resultant cascade of chemicals that make us faster and stronger are poisonous if they are not used for running and fighting. In this way modern-day stress harms our health and emotional well-being. In response exercise is promoted for health.
Were we to run or fight, the upshot of succeeding in our endeavour to survive would find us panting for breath. The combination of physical exertion and full-lung breathing (panting) triggers our body to de-stress. Yes, we have a survival mechanism and a de-stressing mechanism in-built. De-stressing is also a chemical process. It is initiated by the release of endorphins.
The chemical consequence is that all the physical systems are brought into balance – those that were enhanced are normalised and those that were suppressed are allowed to function again – and emotionally we feel great while our thinking mind is allowed to function again.
Laughter causes us to use the full capacity of our lungs and, as reported in the last blog, it is cardio-vascular exercise. Laughter triggers our de-stress mechanism. It is the most effective way to deal with modern-day stress. It stops the amygdala hijacking our day, keeps our thinking alert and creative and our emotions positive.
Seriousness, a pre-requisite to being taken seriously in today’s society, aids and abets our amygdala ruining our day. We need to relegate this pea-sized part of our brain to the importance it’s diminutive size deserves by replacing seriousness with levity. Laughter is the answer to modern-day survival.
The first hint was given by Norman Cousins, political journalist and one time Adjunct Professor of Medical Humanities for the School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the account of his recovery from Marie-Strumpell's disease (ankylosing spondylitis), (although this diagnosis is currently in doubt and it has been suggested that Cousins may actually have had reactive arthritis). [Reference: Wikipedia] "In Anatomy of an illness" Cousins wrote: "I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep". "When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again (to watch Marx Brothers films) and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval." [Reference: Wikipedia]
In the late 1960's Dr William Fry (psychiatrist working at Stanford University, California) began to examine the physiological effects of laughter. He showed that laughter causes the body to produce endorphins which are our body's natural pain killers. [Reference: Certified Laughter Yoga Leader training manual of Dr Madan Kataria.]
I have heard an anecdotal story of a doctor living in Brazil who successfully tested the pain killing effect of laughter when she badly injured her leg is a car accident and underwent two operations without artificial anesthetic using only laughter to kill the pain.
One day in reading through a magazine I saw an advert for training to become a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader offered by Laughter for Africa. Quite frankly, I had never heard of laughter as anything other than something done in response to a funny situation. I also could not recall the last hearty laugh I had had. I do know that it was something my partner and I spoke of as being lacking in our lives but the situations for laughter did not seem to arise. Could I laugh for no reason? I started acting in amateur theatre when I began working and so I thought that forced laughter would be do-able.
It took nine months from first enquiring about the training till I was sitting in a Virgin Active Gym undergoing the training. With a certificate in hand after the second day, with many years in corporate management and all the confidence of standing in front of people I was still very uncertain what I would or could do with this training. Dr. Madan Kataria, the founder of Laughter Yoga, advocates Laughter Clubs. These are gatherings of people on a regular basis - daily in the Far East - for the purpose of laughter. Unless the venue being used charges for rental, laughter club attendance is free. So I started my first laughter club. More than 20 people came to investigate this new club but only half a dozen returned to the Saturday afternoon gathering with any sort of regularity. The year-end period saw people staying away altogether and no one returned in the new year.
A spell of working with the International Laughter Institute (now in a new guise) taught me a lot more about laughter, how to provide a service to paying clients, the essentials of training laughter and I gained invaluable experience in delivering laughter workshops and training in diverse environments. In the meanwhile I studied the basics of running an own business.
Adding from years of studying self-help books and success in my corporate career I see a strategic value to adding an active de-stressing life skill to everyone's basket of tools in reaching their greatest potential.
Laughter Strategist, Laughter Coach, Master Trainer with a passion to assist people transform their lives to reach their highest potential.