The joy series: Alternative routes to happiness

The joy series: Alternative routes to happiness

Actions do speak louder than words

Text: Tracy Phillips

Illustrator: Felicia Yap

Discover three forms of alternative therapies that are as fun and engaging as they are beneficial

Self-expression is one of our most primal urges. The need to be heard and feel understood, to show how we feel and think through whatever tools we can find. Yet sometimes the things we have to say can't find the words and stay buried. Past trauma, relationships lost, the mind's endless questions, can all weigh us down and affect our joy and wellbeing. While the word 'therapy' might conjure scenes of a doctor's couch, getting a massage, or maybe the shelves of self-help titles at a bookstore, there are actually many avenues for introspection that can be creative, engaging, and simply put, fun! 

laughter therapy

1. Laughter Therapy with Dr Yvonne Looi | Self-coined Joyologist, PhD in Biology
What it is: Laughter Therapy stems from Laughter Yoga, a unique exercise routine which combines laughter and yogic breathing exercises to bring more oxygen to the body and brain, leaving us more energised. It works on the premise that your body doesn't know the difference between a spontanous laugh or a voluntary one, so you get the same physiological and psychological benefits. This includes an elevated mood from the endorphins released and lower levels of stress hormones released, thus protecting our immune system.

The process: Best conducted as a group exercise, the therapist will lead the laughter games, using plenty of eye contact and child-like playfulness to instigate real and contagious laughter. Incorporating elements of role-play, crowd interaction and even gratitude practice, the exercises are fast paced and allow you to work up quite the sweat. 

"Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine." - Lord Byron

Who can benefit: Laughter therapy is an activity anyone can do. The benefits of laughter are physical, mental and social and it doesn't require any equipment, previous experience or physical skills. According to Dr. William Fry, the first scientist to really look into laughter as a field of study, just one minute of hearty laughter is equal to 10 minutes of rowing or jogging for cardiopulmonary endurance.

Where and when: Yvonne offers two free monthly public community sessions, Live Love Laugh Sunday held at the Singapore Botanical Gardens and Laughter After Work, held on a weekday evening in the CBD on the grass patch outside the Asian Civilisation Museum. To find out more, click here.

dance therapy

2. Dance Movement Therapy with Elizabeth Rutten-Ng
What it it: Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) is defined as the psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance for emotional, cognitive, social, behavioural and physical conditions. As a form of expressive therapy, DMT is founded on the basis that movement and emotion are directly related.

The process: Done one on one or in a workshop, participants follow verbal cues with their eyes closed to help their subconscious create an internal environment suited to them. Through dialogue, self-reflection and various dance styles, the participant uncover and resolve subconscious motivations and gains increased self-awareness. In the words of qualified DMT trainer, Elizabeth Rutten-Ng, "you are guided to internally witness yourself in movement, sensation and feeling in a non-judgemental manner. You will be encouraged to find in movement and embodiment your own body stories."



Who will benefit: Anyone who prefers to use movement as therapy. DMT has been used to treat a range of physical, psychological, cognitive, and social issues ranging from chronic pain to poor self-esteem and communication issues. 

Where: One workshop was held this April at Raw Moves, with another slated to be held in 2017. To experience DMT sooner, it'll be best to contact trained dance therapist, Elizabeth Rutten-Ng directly. She returns to Singapore at least twice a year for two to three months each time and offers private therapy classes.

art therapy

3. Art Therapy with LASALLE College of the Arts
What is it: Art therapy is a hybrid discipline that draws on the strengths of art making along with the principles and concepts of psychology and psychotherapy. It utilises the complex inter-dynamics and relationships between the artwork, client and therapist for therapeutic benefits where the focus is on the process of creating the artwork rather than simply on the artwork itself.

The process: Through the therapeutic relationship and direct engagement in the art-creation process, people's experiences are expressed and explored. The process is unique to each individual and people can gain significant and even life-changing insights through the exploration of the images, symbols, metaphors and associations that may surface during the process with their art therapist.

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." - Pablo Picasso

Who can benefit: "Anyone and everyone. Given the non-invasive and non-threatening approach to this particular modality, it lends itself well to a full range of people across the human life span. Many people appreciate the creative and non-verbal aspects of art therapy and allow the artwork to speak on their behalf when they may not have the words or readiness to do so at a given moment. Art therapy exists along a continuum from highly structured and psychodynamic to less structured and art studio based. It can be provided individually, to a family, as a group and/or to a community" shares Ronald Lay, Programme Leader, LASALLE College of the Arts.

Where: LASALLE College of the Arts offers a short course, Exploring Art Therapy. The next instalment takes place from 7 to 30 June 2016, every Tuesday and Thursday, and 7 to 10pm.

Next week, we explore a range of alternative treatments where you get to do absolutely nothing but still reap the rewards.

To view more stories in The Joy Series, click here.