Based in the UK, 51-year-old hypnotherapist Terry Anne Scholes (pictured below) has been conducting laughter therapy sessions for the past 13 years, and is bringing her trade to Dubai for the first time on December 10. Scholes will host a day-long workshop at holistic hypnotherapy centre Illuminations in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, to which she invites anyone looking to relieve stress or tension, as well as fellow therapists in other fields interested to learn how to help their clients do the same.
According to Scholes, the health benefits of laughter are many. ‘It can reduce blood pressure and help feelgood endorphins spread around the body. When we allow ourselves to laugh, just in the moment, we also neutralise cortisol in the body – that’s the stress hormone that creates that fight-or-flight mode.’ Given that most jobs in Dubai send people grey quicker than a stint in the White House, it seems Scholes’ visit comes not a moment too soon.
So how does she go about making people laugh? ‘We do lots of fun exercises that encourage people to laugh,’ she explains, ‘like a belly-laughing exercise, and standing on one leg while patting your head and rubbing your tummy.’ Doesn’t it feel forced? ‘It’s a “fake it ’til you make it” thing. If you pretend and you start making yourself laugh, it becomes real and then it becomes infectious’ she explains. Over the years, her groups have ranged in size from five people to 200 (‘that can be total chaos’), and it’s an exercise she can undertake absolutely anywhere – she’s even done an impromptu laughing session at a railway station.
On a more serious note, Scholes explains she does a lot of work with cancer groups and eating disorder groups, where laughter therapy helps release tension and balance stress hormones. ‘The idea is to help people de-stress, to see life from a different perspective and to be able to live the life they choose. So many people nowadays are just in turmoil, facing difficult decisions and stressed out by their way of life, so this allows them to let go and release some of those emotions, and feel free.’
Though she also does the occasional one-on-one session (more often combined with her hypnotherapy), Scholes believes laughter therapy is something that works better as part of a group. ‘I think a group is more scary for some people, but once they allow themselves to join in, it’s probably far more beneficial.’
Asked about the kind of scepticism she faces when proposing laughter as a therapy, she notes that several companies have booked her more than once. ‘I’m assuming that some of the sceptics do get converted,’ she chuckles. Unsurprisingly for a laughter therapist, her attitude towards non-believers is relaxed.
‘I just love a sceptic. People are always going to say “you’re just pretending” and “what difference is it going to make?” so I just invite you to keep an open mind, allow yourself permission to join in, and see what happens.
Scholes’ day-long laughter therapy workshop is on December 10 at 9am. Dhs600 per person. Illuminations Centre, 409 Fortune Executive Towers, JLT (04 362 5480).
Tricks to try at home
Want to practise your own laughter before the workshop? Try these three tips from Terry Anne Scholes…
1 ‘Wake up in the morning, allow yourself to smile and then look in the mirror and say “I’m back”.’
2 ‘Think back to a time when you were really creasing up and crying with laughter. Bring back that moment, so you can see the picture and sounds associated with it. We’ve all got that one moment we remember when we were just giggling and giggling and really it wasn’t even funny, and we don’t know what we were laughing at, but it was just hysterical.’
3 ‘Pat your head and rub your tummy while standing on one leg. If you do that the next time you’re stressed, it will completely break the state of mind.’