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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Laughter is No Joke!

By Dale Heffer

We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine. Ever wonder why?

Remember Norman Cousins book “Anatomy of an Illness” where he described overcoming his po.ten.tially fatal disease by watching funny movies?

Psychiatrist, Dr. William Fry of Stanford University showed in his famous study that 20 seconds of intense laughter, even if faked, can double the heart rate for three to five minutes, an accomplishment that would take three minutes of strenuous rowing ex.er.cise! Laughter is an aerobic ex.er.cise. When we laugh, we are filling our lungs with oxygen. A lack of oxygen is a contributing factor in many conditions and illnesses; therefore, laughing is an ideal way to improve one’s health. Laughter helps to remove the negative effects of stress, boosts the immune system, helps control high blood pressure and heart disease, increases st.am.ina through increased oxygen supply, alleviates pain and gives a sense of wellbeing by releasing endorphins (the body’s painkiller hormones). Laughter is an effective antidote for depression, anxiety and psychosomatic disorders by boosting the production of serotonin, a natural anti-depressant. Laughter also gives an excellent internal massage to the digestive tract and enhances blood supply to internal organs.

Do you need a sense of humor to enjoy the benefits of laughter? According to many studies, our bodies benefit from laughter whether it is real or not. You do not need a sense of humor to reap laughter’s benefits. Children laugh for no reason 300-400 times a day. Sadly, adults laugh only about 15 times a day. What can we do to increase our laughter? There are many “laughter therapies” where they promote laughter through different methods. We can watch funny movies, tell jokes or even laugh for no reason.

It is not necessary to be happy in order to laugh. You can decide to play a game or laugh despite all the problems in your life. Faking laughter can actually produce a feeling of joyfulness and gives the same benefits as genuine laughter. According to Madan Kataria, MD, “a feeling of joyfulness can be produced by faking laughter and engaging in childlike playfulness.” Dr. Kataria started a movement called Laughter Yoga in 1995 in Mumbai, India with only 5 participants. Today, Laughter Yoga has grown to over 5000 Laughter Clubs in 55 countries where club members get together and “laugh for no reason” just for the health of it. You can laugh in the shower, in your car or with your family and friends.

My new motto is: “When in Doubt, Laugh!”

Dale Heffer and Joellen Kuhl teach laughter Yoga on Sundays at 3:00 PM at Way To Be Fit, 1945 Ridge Road East, Rochester, NY 14622. Dale is a certified Laughter Yoga Leader and owner of Way To Be Fit. Joellen is a certified Laughter Yoga Leader and Teacher Call 585-278-1302 for more information.

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