Be happy to beat winter blues
LAUGHTER and smiling could be the best way to ward off the winter blues, according to a Bristol expert.
Occupational therapy lecturer at Bristol UWE, Alice Hortop (pictured) , said people can help themselves to feel better on long winter nights simply by having a laugh.
She has been researching and teaching in the area of laughter therapy for more than 12 years and said a chuckle can increase "happy chemicals" in the brain.
"I have been completely inspired by the power of laughter therapy to lift mood, reduce pain, connect people and boost motivation and confidence.
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"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."
Her tips for surviving long winter nights include finding humour in all that you do and taking the opportunity to "laugh out loud" when you feel amused.
Miss Hortop said being kind to people has also been shown to increase feelings of wellbeing for longer periods of time than momentary acts of pleasure.
"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," she said.
"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."
She also recommends savouring moments of warmth, pleasure and happiness whether they are current or in the past.
"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," Miss Hortop said.
She uses laughter and smiling in her work training occupational therapists at UWE Bristol.
The therapy involves helping people to adapt to change and new situations as a result of illness, injury or a change of circumstances. It can focus on helping people to do daily tasks such as dressing or to helping offenders and homeless people to get their lives back on track.