Watts & Watts

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Laughter is seriously useful

Article by Katharine Watts printed in Business to Business newspaper, Auckland.

I was intrigued to see the recent Business to Business articles on the practical health and wellbeing value of laughter. Laughter certainly has these roles which impinge on the workplace. But there is another important role which is less well-known.

Laughter is not just a feel-good, or even a purely psychological benefit. It has real physiological usefulness. As a voice coach I deal with many voices which are in real strife. People who use their voice constantly in their profession run into many problems with what is generally called vocal constriction. What happens is that the voice responds to personal or work stress by “closing down”. It may become de-energised (wispy and weak) or over-energised (pressured and hard), either way affecting the person’s vocal sound. Or it may give out altogether.

The larynx is a valve which is programmed to safeguard your airway so that you don’t choke. In stress situations this valve tends to close, affecting the freedom of the voice. Laughter is the magnificent key which releases this constriction in the throat, freeing the voice.

Learning to apply this strategy takes practice, and coaching people in this area is a large part of my work. The technique has revolutionised my own vocal ease as singer and speaker, and it brings fantastic results with students who are professional voice users. Laughter undoes the limitations of the voice, and who needs to live with unnecessary limitations in this important area?

This voice strategy is researched and thoroughly documented scientifically. Its use is a learned skill – voices can change with “applied laughter”. Laughter is the best medicine.