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Why laughter is the best medicine


With Lotte Mikkelsen 



Laughter therapist Lotte Mikkelsen reveals the benefits of having a good laugh and how you can try it for yourself at home.

For Lotte Mikkelsen, life is a barrel of laughs—and for good reason. She’s a laughter therapist and laughter yoga master trainer, which means her working days revolve around sharing the benefits of a good giggle, both physically and mentally. “For me, laughter is the total release and surrender to who you are,” she says. “The great thing about it is that everyone has access to it. Choosing to laugh means choosing the health that comes with laughing. It allows you to come back to joy and a more empowered way of living.” In these difficult and uncertain times, could there be anything more tempting?


What’s the difference between laughter yoga and laughter therapy?

Laughter yoga is the physical act of laughing. It’s very accessible and people can do it on their own. Laughter therapy is a deeper process, best done with a trained therapist. It’s based on psychotherapy, and the idea is to laugh into pain.


What are the five main benefits of laughing?  


1. It lifts your mood within minutes by releasing endorphins—your happy chemical. So even if you’re facing challenges, it can shift how you feel.  


2. Laughter lowers stress, which boosts your immunity. Studies have found that when endorphins are released in our bodies, they suppress stress chemicals like cortisol. Too much stress inhibits our immune system, digestive system, reproductive system and more.  


3. It helps you get more fresh air into the body (and to your vital organs) and expel old air, which makes you feel more motivated alert.  


4. It allows us to connect—when you get that uncontrollable laughter, or catch someone’s eye, and burst into giggles, it releases oxytocin – the love hormone. Of course, it’s better when we’re together, but we can also make this happen online. You just have to be willing to explore it. 


5. You develop resilience and resourcefulness to coping with life’s ups and downs. If you can practise laughing every day, you start rewiring your brain—and creating new neural pathways. When it becomes a habit, it’s like second nature to be your own joyful and cheerful self. 


How can you get an instant rush of laughter-induced endorphins? 

Look in the mirror, wag your finger playfully as though you’re telling yourself off, and say: “hahaha, hohoho, hehehe”. Those three sounds move the muscles in your face, giving you a really good facial exercise. Let it flow, and you might just start to laugh naturally. If it begins to feel strenuous, or if you’re overthinking it, stop—to laugh naturally, you can’t think.  


So, is it just about forcing yourself to laugh? 

It’s more about pretending to laugh, at least at the beginning, until you naturally laugh. It should never feel strenuous or strained. A deep, hearty laugh comes from the belly not the chest. It’s a good workout for your body because using your diaphragm pulls the muscles on your ribs and abdomen.  


How long should you laugh for? 

After around ten minutes of laughter, you really shift the biochemistry and start to release a cocktail of fantastic hormones like endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. If ten minutes sounds too long, try to work up to a minute of laughter followed by a minute of deep breathing exercises. It’s about starting a practice that can shift how you feel about things.  


Any other tips to introduce more laughter into our lives? 

Try starting your day with a laugh. When you get out of bed in the morning, start saying: “hahaha”—that sound makes your lips automatically turn up. It triggers the pleasure senses in the brain and transforms your mood. Having those chemicals in higher doses helps us cope with whatever the day throws at us. If you’re in a good mood when you wake up, the rest of your day is likely to follow suit. 




Lotte Mikkelsen is a London-based laughter therapist, laughter yoga master trainer, keynote speaker and essentially, a really great laugh.