Why Laughter is Good Medicine
Tired of all the gloom and doom? Try getting a good laugh.
Back in 1995, Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India, created a club whose members gather every day to laugh. He called it Laughter Yoga. Sessions begin with participants clapping rhythmically and chanting “Ho-ho, ha-ha-ha. This faked laughter soon becomes real laughter.
Laughter Yoga combines yoga deep breathing and simulated laughter exercises. Does fake laughter have the same benefits as real laughter? The doctor says even if you pretend laugh, the same set of happy chemicals (endorphins) are released in your brain. Today there are over 5,000 laughter clubs in more than 50 countries.
Laughter brings important health benefits. Pent up negative emotions like anger, sadness and frustration are released in a healthy way, and humor can help us view stressful events as challenges rather than threats. As Bill Cosby has said, if you can laugh at it, you can survive it.
Laughter may even help to prevent heart disease, according to a study at the University of Maryland. When you laugh you improve the function of the innermost lining of your blood vessels, and this is important to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In the study, viewing laughter-provoking clips from movies was found to relax blood vessels in 19 of the 20 study volunteers, and increase blood flow an average of 22 percent. While film clips that caused stress were found to narrow blood vessels in 14 of 20 volunteers, and decrease blood flow by an average of 34 percent.
Other studies by Dr. Lee Berk of California’s Loma Linda University School of Medicine show that laughter may also strengthen our immune system and decrease our stress hormones.
There are lots of easy ways to get more laughter into your life:
- Watch funny movies or TV shows.
- Read funny books.
- Hang out with happy, upbeat people.
- Use brainwave training to instantly bust your stress