Falmouth is home to The Best Medicine, a workshop that guides groups of people through a mixture of laughing yoga, playfulness and meditation aimed at leaving you healthier and more energetic.

I joined The Best Medicine in order to participate and photograph their group activities. I was hoping to capture unique social behaviour and was curious about what I could learn from studying the sunnier side of our personalities.

What can the science of laughter teach us and how does it exactly contribute to a healthier life style?

After attending many laughter workshops I found my self enjoying both the physical and meditative exercises however the theory of induced laughter (as apposed to spontaneous) still makes me nervous.  The concept of ‘letting go’ in unfamiliar circumstances with a bunch of strangers is scary to say the least.

At the beginning of each session, Katie White, Laughing Facilitator and Founder of The Best Medicine reassures us:

“When we force laughter were releasing the same endorphins if we were genuinely laughing at something that was funny. At first were tricking our bodies into feeling good and through the practice of some simple techniques real laughter is likely to emerge which can be contagious and sometimes difficult to stop”

Laugh along to Katie’s 1-1 laughter workout:

Katie White, founder of The Best Medicine.  Caught flashing a smile.

The Best Medicine has been delivering its unique brand of laughter therapy across Cornwall since 2015.   Events include festivals that promote well-being, organisations that want to de-stress their employees, hysterical hen parties and even a laughter workout for visitors at the Eden Project.

One of my many highlights from following The Best Medicine was upon visiting Marazion School where they were preparing for their SATs.  After a busy school day and an exhausting after school meeting it was Katie’s task to send everyone home smiling and relaxed,

“In light of the new SATS tests for children; there is a great pressure for not only the children, but also the teachers and parents”, Katie explains

“My laughter workshops are a great way of uniting the community; releasing stress, relieving anxiety and encouraging a positive mind-set.”


Pupils, parents and teachers letting go of their stress during a after school laughter workshop.

When not taking pictures I join in the workshops. It’s an experience that ranges in feeling as it combines many different exercises, from using relaxation techniques that focus on the breath to more energetic games that encourage movement and creativity.

There’s time allocated to reflection and calmness as there is for raucous and wild behaviour. Time and again, I found my self engaging in ridiculous games with complete strangers such as pretending to be a kernel popping on a hot pan or pushing a laughter-powered lawnmower at full pelt.  It’s a sight to behold; so called grown-ups, running around in circles, jumping up and down, hooting and hollering, behaving like children again.

A favourite amongst fellow gigglers is the Gobbledygook game in which you can only communicate through the language of gobbledygook.  It can be likened to a form of object play as participants have to mould an imaginary object and share it
amongst the group.

Participants playing the Gobbledygook game.

What’s striking about observing this exercise is how people get carried away and instinctively begin to role play and create a narrative around their objects.  People can become completely immersed in this state of play, no longer needing to be led, comfortable expressing them selves and drawing others into their imaginary worlds.

Feeling relaxed after a laughter workout. 

After an hour of side splitting and rib-tickling, everybody is clearly more relaxed than they were at the beginning of the session. We are invited to sit down and reflect upon our experience, some report feeling “happier” “less stressed” “liberated” and “I felt like I was six years old again.”

During a laughter workshop there is often pause for thought and time to consider how these exercises can be taken away and applied in our daily lives. This is particularly useful for people who want to find new ways of managing stress and anxiety or simply as a means of keeping fit and healthy.

The science of laughter is teaching us about it’s many health benefits, such as improving mental health by reducing stress hormones, boosting immunity against infection and preventing heart disease by increasing blood flow.  Recent studies examining the correlation between a strong sense of humour and mortality have revealed that both men and woman who laugh more live
longer in spite of illness.

So If you’re in need of a laugh-fit plan, a place to play or a chance to exercise joyfulness,
why not try taking a dose of The Best Medicine. For more information you can visit:
www.thebestmedicine.co.uk or www.facebook.com/thebestmedicinecornwall

 

1. It's a natural painkiller  <br> 
Laughter, whether if it be spontaneous or voluntary, releases endorphins in the brain which are pain reducing chemicals that create feelings of pleasure and euphoria. <br> <br>

Laughter is as a natural pain killer and is indeed good medicine according to Mark van Vught, professor of social and organizational psychology at the VU University Amsterdam. <br><br>

Vught conducted experiments that measured people’s thresholds for pain after laughing.  Two groups of people were exposed to the same pain threshold tests, after which one group watched comedy clips and the other watched a factual documentary. Vught reported “After watching the documentary people’s pain tolerance went down, as expected. Yet, after watching comedy, pain tolerance went up by as much as 50% in some of our studies” 2. Good for your heart
<br>
Laughter improves the function of blood vessels which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.<br><br>
The University of Maryland Medical Centre, found that laughter increases blood flow by causing the inner lining of blood vessels (the endothelium) to expand.  Unlike stress which does the opposite, compressing blood vessels and reducing blood flow.
3. Laughter is social tool
<br>Laughter is more to do with social bonding rather than a reaction to something funny according to Robert Provine, Neuroscientist and author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. <br> After several thousand observational studies Provine discovered that laughter was 30 times more frequent in social situations than solitary ones.
<br><br>
The evolution of laughter may have served as an important survival tool in forming alliances as our social groups grew larger and more complex.  Laughter goes beyond humour, it’s about communication and lets people know we like them and want them to like us. 4. Catching the laughter virus
<br>British neuroscientist Sophie Scott has brought laughter science into the spotlight, not only as a member of the scientific community but also as a stand-up comedian.  Through her research she has discovered that laughter is indeed a contagion.  <br><br>
       
“Our brain scans reveal that laughter is contagious. Even when someone is having their brain scanned, which is not really very funny, you can see their brain responding to the laughter by preparing their facial muscles to join in” Sophie explains.
<br><br>
The most famous epidemic of uncontrollable laughter occurred in Tanzania in 1962. The outbreak began in a girls’ school and spread to other communities which lasted several months and resulted in the temporary closure of 14 schools. 5. Laugh or die
<br>Norwegian researchers tracked 53,556 people over a 15-year study investigating the correlation between sense of humour and mortality.  In 2016, the results were published in Psychmatic Medicine revealing both men and woman with a strong sense of humour were found to live longer in spite of illness.    
<br><br>
Co-author Sven Svebak, a professor emeritus of neuromedicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology says “it may buffer against conflict in social interactions and overall stress, preventing the escalation of stress hormones.  When these hormones, such as cortisol, are chronically elevated, they suppress immune functions”
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1. It's a natural painkiller
Laughter, whether if it be spontaneous or voluntary, releases endorphins in the brain which are pain reducing chemicals that create feelings of pleasure and euphoria.

Laughter is as a natural pain killer and is indeed good medicine according to Mark van Vught, professor of social and organizational psychology at the VU University Amsterdam.

Vught conducted experiments that measured people’s thresholds for pain after laughing. Two groups of people were exposed to the same pain threshold tests, after which one group watched comedy clips and the other watched a factual documentary. Vught reported “After watching the documentary people’s pain tolerance went down, as expected. Yet, after watching comedy, pain tolerance went up by as much as 50% in some of our studies”