Laugh your way into the spring, says UWE Occupational Therapy Lecturer

Issue date: 09 January 2013

Crowd laughter

With spring still feeling like a long way off, UWE Bristol's Alice Hortop explains that laughter, kindness and a simple smile are the easy things that can help to keep the winter blues at bay.

Senior Occupational Therapy lecturer Alice, specialises in the therapeutic use of humour, laughter and smiling and has been researching and teaching in this area for over 12 years. She explains, “I have been completely inspired by the power of laughter therapy to lift mood, reduce pain, connect people and boost motivation and confidence. As the cold winter nights draw in, many of us begin to experience a dip in our mood. We can all help ourselves by injecting a bit of laughter into our lives. Laughter increases your happy chemicals in your brain, helps you be creative and gives you a sparkle in your eye that makes you attractive.”

Alice's top tips for better wellbeing include:

· Try to find humour in all that you do and when you do feel amused try to laugh out loud, as long as it's appropriate to do so.

· Helping and being kind to other people has shown to increase our feelings of well being for longer periods of time than momentary acts of pleasure, often referred to as 'the helper's high'. Try to act in a kind way to everyone you meet, go the extra mile and engage in random acts of kindness you'll be pleasantly surprised at what results you can have. Why not double the benefits and gift laughter to those around you, share a smile, joke or create amusing opportunities. Feeling valued by those around us has long been recognised as essential to our health and wellbeing, being valued as kind and considerate are great feelings.

· Savour moments of warmth, pleasure and happiness whether in the moment or from the past, as James Barrie said, “God gave us memories so we might have roses in December.” Reminiscing, being grateful and focusing on these times have been shown to help us create feelings of happiness in the now. Alice adds, “I've kept a humour and positive diary for about 12 years and it is full of gorgeous moments of fun, humour, compliments, achievements and events that always make me feel good when I flick over the pages full of them.”

Alice applies this specialism in her approach to training the Occupational Therapists of the future at UWE Bristol. She explains, “As Occupational Therapists we help people to adapt to changes and new situations that impact on their daily lives as a result of illness, injury or a change in circumstances. This ranges from helping someone with the daily tasks we take for granted such as dressing or going to the shops, to helping young offenders and homeless people develop the life skills to get back on track.

“Laughter and humour can be useful from helping students to develop ways of remembering anatomical terms and techniques to move the body in class, to interacting with clients in practice on placement.”

For more information on studying Occupational Therapy at UWE Bristol see:

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