Mahes Karuppiah-Quillen laughs a lot. In public, on the train, in cafes – loudly and with abandon. The laughter therapist believes that laughter is the solution to depression, stress, anxiety and life’s modern struggles, and that adults in Australia need to re-discover it.
Today, we’re excited to go behind the scenes of one of Fed Square’s regular events and introduce Mahes and the power of having a good chuckle.
“When we laugh, we take all of our internal organs along with the joke too.”
Fed Square: What is Laughter Yoga or Laughter Therapy?
Mahes Karuppiah-Quillen: We all laugh, and from about two weeks of age a baby starts laughing and experimenting with it. It feels good inside and nobody’s taught them it – it’s an innate experience. But as we grow up there’s conditioning involved. Children laugh between 300 to 400 times a day, and then as adults it’s around 15-20 times a day. We lose it. Life has become so busy and we’re preoccupied that we’ve forgotten this innate experience we’re born with.
So, Laughter Yoga is a simulated exercise where laughter is involved. The body doesn’t know the difference, whether laughter has been simulated, from watching something funny or from hearing something funny, it will release the endorphins anyway.
If there is no difference scientifically between the effects of simulated laughter and natural laughter in the body, what are the benefits?
The benefits are – woah! – there are so many.
- Anti Stress
- A natural relaxant
- Strengthens the Immune System
- Best Aerobic Exercise
- Depression, anxiety and psychosomatic disorders
- High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease
- Natural Pain Killer
- Alleviates Bronchitis and Asthma
- Internal Jogging
Something that I always carry with me, and I’ll tell anybody who’ll listen, is that our thoughts have consequences so great that they create our reality. As such, quality of thoughts is quality of life.
After Laughter Yoga I feel like I’m high! My natural endorphins are flowing and, when we laugh, we take all of our internal organs along with the joke too.
Laughter is a natural relaxant; you feel so good. In the body, endorphins are coursing through every cell. It creates the feel good factor, and – this is a big one – it strengthens the immune system. With every form of illness you will see that there is at least some element of stress – the flu, a cough, what have you – and it’s because it’s your immune system’s defense mechanism. Three or four decades of research has proven that negative emotions weaken your immune system and positive emotions strengthen it. It’s as simple as that.
One of the easiest ways of releasing stress is laughter. If you’re embarrassed to laugh in public, go to the bathroom, turn on the taps and “ha ha ha ha”! You’ll fake it until you make it, and soon it will develop into natural laughter. That’s how the body works; in association.
So the old adage of ‘fake it until you make it’ well and truly applies here?
Oh yes! Believe me, with money back guarantee, you’ll make it.
We are so busy multi-tasking. With emails, mobile phones, blah blah blah. The mind has become so distracted. We now have this problem, which is actually pathological, of short term attention spans. This can’t go on, because it leads to burn out and people want to relax.
It’s interesting that you talk about laughter from a medical perspective, with the links between laughter and the nervous system. Increasingly in Australia we’re seeing the connection between the body and the mind and the spirit, and this is something that you’ve pioneered. What are the benefits of this?
Happily, we’re getting healthier. People are realising that the mind doesn’t work on its own. A lot of people are becoming educated, our media is talking about this and people are learning more on the internet. When you take responsibility for your health to develop an understanding of how the body works, you will be healthier and happier. So you have to accept that mind, body and spirit are linked.
How would you like to see people cope with the fast pace of life and to introduce laughter into their day? Are there simple steps that they can take?
- The first is to attend a laughter club – come to Fed Square and experience it. It’s an experiential experience, so come and learn and taste it;
- Just laugh! As an exercise right now I can laugh (laughs aloud). Another benefit is that it breaks down barriers and it releases your inhibitions. You’ll find that, with laughter, a lot of people will join you. You can’t go wrong with it;
- There are jokes, you can watch something funny;
- Google ‘laughter’. If your brain needs science, there’s a lot of data behind it. I’ve done research of my own and, if that’s what you need, it’s all there.
Do you see a change in people from the beginning of a class compared to the end? Is it that immediate?
Yes, sometimes it is. I ask that people come with an open mind and a playful spirit, and we try to bring out their inner child. I see them warm up and, as they do, join in. Frankly, it’s hard not to join in. I’ve seen the transformation that laughter can have in people’s lives.
I always remind everyone what Mother Teresa would say. “Go out and, for the rest of the week, smile at five strangers every day and then laugh with at least one.”
That’s great advice to live by.
Yes! As you give, you receive. That’s the theory of the universe. When you laugh and make others happy, even if it’s with small things, these little deeds will make you feel good too.
Join Fed Square’s Laughter Club on the first and third Sunday of every month, and experience the benefits of a good old chuckle for yourself.