The health benefits of laughter therapy, also known as “rigology”, it turns out in many ways, be it on the physical level with the relaxation of muscle tension, but also on the psychological level, to relieve stress and discomfort.
*** History of Laughter Therapy
Already in the early twentieth century, Freud argued that humor allows the human to demonstrate his refusal to let himself be defeated by suffering, to affirm the invincibility of his self, and to make the pleasure principle triumph – all this by remaining sane! Based on a 1996 synthesis of studies, Professor Rod Martin, a laughing scientist at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, concluded that viewing life with humor or taking it “with a grain of salt Would have measurable beneficial consequences on psychological and emotional health.
Laughter clubs were established in India by Dr. Madan Kataria in 1995. Today there are more than 6,000 in more than 60 countries. In a Laughter Club, everyone experiences group laughter on a regular basis for their own good. All kinds of exercises are designed to stimulate one’s own ability to laugh, relax, and break free from inhibitions. All this would help cultivate one’s health and adopt a more positive and joyful attitude towards life. Instructors teach the technique to people who want to set up a club. Laughter sessions take place in groups, most often in the morning, to start the day off right.
In short, laughing and developing one’s sense of humor is good for physical, mental, and emotional health. But how can we achieve this if we are not at first a natural “perky”? One can, of course, follow psychotherapy or learn about personal development approaches to have more humor to better cope with life and “unhappy” events. A more direct way is to participate in a Laughter Club, or to make Yoga laughter!
It is much more fun to go to a laughing session, also called Laughter Yoga or Rigolotherapie. The group effect amplifies the laughter and the heat that emanates is warm to the hearts.
*** The Health Benefits of Laughter Therapy
People who have a greater sense of humor are less shaken by stressful experiences. They are more likely to regard them as stimulating challenges than as painful trials. In addition, they generally have higher self-esteem and are more realistic in their appreciation of themselves. Optimistic in nature, they have a more fulfilled social life. But, the author points out that it is difficult to determine precisely whether these favorable states result from a sense of humor or if they are not rather those states that allow approaching life with humor.
Rod Martin also points out that humor can also be used in an unhealthy way. It can serve as a loophole or unconscious defense mechanism to escape its problems or to avoid confronting them constructively, or denigrate others.
In another synthesis of studies, published in 2001, Professor Martin reports on the most documented theories that could explain the beneficial effects of laughter and humor.
– By generating powerful positive emotions, laughter and humor would lead to analgesic effects and increased immunity.
– Seeing life with a humorous attitude would reduce stress and thus indirectly improve health.
– People with a greater sense of humor would be better adapted socially and more “attractive”, which would increase their chances of being healthy – it’s not a joke.
Note: The health benefits of laughter therapy are immediate: better mood, flexibility, feeling of being re-connected to life is in the world.
I – Laughter Therapy
It is a real psycho-corporal approach that stimulates joy and optimism.
1 – Laughter Therapy: Definition of Rigology
Laughter therapy is a technique that stimulates positive emotions through a holistic approach, both psychological and bodily.
The rigology is inspired by sophrology and laughter yoga. It is not about laughing anyhow, but with simple techniques to practice rather in groups, with the supervision of a trained therapist who is called a “rigologist”.
The therapy with laughter is very old since already the Greeks in antiquity recommended laughing every day to maintain good health. Laughter brings a lot of benefits, both physically and psychologically. This original technique allows a global approach and promotes the harmony of the body, emotions, and spirit.
2 – Characteristics of Laughter Therapy
Laughter therapy is practiced in different ways, whether used as a therapeutic or well-being technique: Laughter clubs that allow you to experience group laughter through relaxation, laughing and letting go taken; laughing yoga with breathing techniques, alone or in groups; clown therapy, widely used in hospitals, especially with children and the elderly.
The laughter triggered by the jokes of the clown helps to boost morale and motivate patients.
A session lasts about an hour and a half, during which different laughs are used: the laughter of the lion that opens the mouth wide; the self-laughter that alleviates the mind and builds self-confidence; repetitions of words like “very good”, “yes” or onomatopoeias like “hoho” or “haha”; the meditation of laughter, that is to say, a general laugh that allows a total let go.
3 – The Health Benefits of Laughter Therapy
It is no secret that we know many health benefits of laughter therapy.
On the physical level, laughter can activate the diaphragm and breathing, reduce pain, massage the internal organs, especially the intestines and stomach, activate the blood circulation, oxygenate the brain and all organs, relax tensions improve sleep and strengthen the immune system.
On a psychological level, laughter releases endorphins, and therefore causes pleasure and a euphoric effect, reduces stress and anxiety, relax and expresses emotions, improves self-esteem, mood and sleep.
4 – Laughter Therapy: Its Applications
Laughter therapy is for everyone, including children and the elderly. It has many applications, whether in the workplace, in people with health problems, where anyone is concerned about their well-being.
It can be applied in case of chronic diseases, such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, or palliative care, to help the person find the necessary resources to overcome his difficulties; physical or mental disability; chronic pain; lung diseases, such as emphysema, asthma or chronic bronchitis; anxiety and anxiety disorders; digestive disorders, sleep, and mood, such as depression.
In the workplace, it helps to motivate, foster team spirit and cohesion of a company. In children, it can be used by teachers to release anxiety and encourage learning.
II – The Sessions of Laughter Therapy
Laughter and smile, however, are natural expressions. When they do not express themselves anymore, the person who makes the bitter acknowledgment feels paralyzed, helpless, stuck to his psychic suffering. What to do with the subject’s request to find the strength to live with optimism, to want to laugh to say that neither the illness nor the misfortunes of life will take away his humor, what remains of his joy? Being able to reconnect with your emotions and find a positive state of mind allows, according to the patients, to move more serenely, to find the energy to face the events of life.
And it is precisely to allow these people to thumb a nose at their health, to reinvest the positive side that I introduced the rigology. So, for those bold, brave, I put on my red nose, shifted from the image of the psychologist, and set up workshops of rigology. I was interested in this psycho-corporal tool combining dynamism, sharing, and stimulating psychic work.
In consultation, when laughter occurs and a reflection around the desire to find a daily happier, more smiling, I evoke the possibility of working on a positive axis. This line of work can only be considered once the person has been able to put words on his suffering, find his answers and begin to invest himself beyond his pathology.
When I feel the person is ready to engage in a group approach, I propose to participate in the workshops of rigology. This laughter therapy works as a detour to achieve psychological well-being. It is intended for people who are willing to lend themselves to the game of a playful practice that is most often therapeutic.
*** Corinne Cosseron
The rigology, developed in 2002 by Corinne Cosseron, founder of the International School of laughter and well-being, is a set of psycho-corporal techniques designed to stimulate the joy of living, optimism, the expression of emotions, and the affirmation of the personality for physical and psychological well-being. The exercises proposed are varied and playful: dynamic relaxation, games of cohesion, playful sophrology, the yoga of the laughter, clown personal development, work on the emotions, …
*** Find the Desire and the Pleasure of Laughing
The laughter sessions consist of different times that gradually allow people to enter a dynamic, to find the desire and the pleasure of laughing. Thus each session begins with exercises of anchoring, evacuation of stress, heating of the voice and the diaphragm, stimulation of the points of acupuncture, stretching, yawning sound. In a fun way, people manage to mobilize a happy state of mind, to leave the concerns aside, to move, and to get in contact with the rest of the group. My animation continues with laughter yoga exercises, with dynamic postures inspired by yoga, with a humorous staging that makes working the diaphragm and therefore laughter. According to my creation of the day, I can offer laughter funny-green exercises to know the laughter of seasonal fruits and vegetables. We really laugh at laughing at the tractor, the asparagus, and the bunch of asparagus, it’s like splitting the pear! These mime sounds are alternated, for example, with playful sophrology exercises naturally bringing laughter. A very appreciated game is one in which all the laughing people sitting in a circle pass an object (pen, maracas …) with a typical formulation while miming different emotions (anger, strong joy, disgust, sensuality …). The laughs are delighted to accentuate the emotions, play a good role in the originality of the situation and have fun watching the group dramatize the situation!
*** At the End of the Session
At the end of the session, the group has released their laugh, having amused themselves with the originality of the context, each having laughed at himself and with the others, we end the session with a meditation of laughter. This meditation of laughter consists of lying on your back on the floor, without words, to relax and it is at this moment that naturally occurs laughter for no reason, just for wanting to continue laughing at the memory of the exercises proposed during the meeting. Laughing is contagious, the whole group goes into a laugh, uncontrolled, liberating tensions and generating a bath of endorphins. The session ends with a time of sharing allowing the laughers to express their impressions, their discoveries, to put back the social link.
*** Groups of 10 to 15 People
Sessions of rigology are proposed for groups of 10 to 15 people, once a month, laughter being communicative and vector of social link. These workshops allow each participant to work on different aspects of the personality, the relationship with oneself and the other, to find reusable resources in both personal and professional life.
These workshops have several therapeutic objectives: to allow people to reinvest a group activity, to be able to dare to go towards the other in a context of benevolence and confidence, the other being perceived more in the resemblance than in the difference (of weight, social …). Thus, being able to flourish inside the laughter workshop then facilitates the initiatives taken outside of the framework carried by the group and gives back taste to the social relations.
To dare to engage under the gaze of the other, to the stage, and to communicate with others through clown, play and laughter. All work can then be done on the way we look at ourselves and the self-image that the other person sends us back. The other functioning as the mirror of our emotions, our attitudes.
To find a space of freedom of corporeal expression, to learn and to be able to express oneself emotions, often killed in favor of the action or the feeding behavior. This space naturally allows the emergence of laughter, and the pleasure of hearing his laughter and that of others unfold.
In these workshops of rigology, always in a playful spirit and in an apparent lightness, we work mainly on laughter, joy, and other emotions. These workshops allow, at first, the psychologist to hear something other than the speech of the subject, only his silences, speech being set aside at that time. For Winnicott, “It is by playing, and only by playing, that the individual, child or adult, is able to be creative and use his or her whole personality. It is only by being creative that the individual discovers the self (its psychic reality) “(1971: 76). In the game, in the mime, the spontaneity expresses itself more easily, the person does not play a character, she is the character. In this space without artifice, the person can allow himself to shift from his suffering and to evolve in a new space but resembling to be mistaken for the space of childhood, a time during which the person was in the spontaneity, in the game, laughs. According to Nathalie Tauzia, this mediator of laughter “gives patients the pleasure of communicating and using their psyche” (2002; p.67).
In the clinical interviews, I sometimes perceive the need for people to undertake a dynamic group approach that allows unraveling work axes remained frozen in the unique framework of the interview. The surprise of this reunion (pleasant or not) with his laughter and his emotions, this letting go allows to bring new elements of reflection, brings a new dynamic to the clinical interview.
The health benefits of laughter therapy evoked by laughter are diverse and seem obvious at the moment, like well-being, bodily relaxation, a happier mood.
In a second time, the health benefits of laughter therapy are often mentioned as greater assurance, greater ease in letting oneself express emotions or thoughts, and the ability to apprehend the world and the environment in a less dramatic way, less marked by fears, anxieties.
In his book, N. Tauzia, adds that “laughter is the breath that expresses an emotion, it is an expiration, an extension of the soul, contrary to sobs. It is a liberating landfill that provides physical and psychic relaxation. (…) Laughter, like meaning, is part of the body but is a form of contact, a relational and therefore social basis. (…) This is how laughter questions the link between the physiological and the psychic, between the soul and the body “(2002, p. 103).
Main sources on the rigology:
– (In French) Tauzia N., Rire contre la démence, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2002
– (In English) Tauzia N., Laughter against dementia, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2002
– (In French) Winnicott DW., Jeu et réalité, Paris, Gallimard, 1971
– (In English) Winnicott DW., Game, and reality, Paris, Gallimard, 1971