Humour, laughter, playfulness and spontaneity are necessary ingredients of a happy healthy life. Laughter is indeed the best medicine. For years humour has been used in medicine throughout recorded history. Surgeons have been using humour to distract patients from pain since early 13th century. Later in 20th century, came the scientific study of the effect of humour on overall health and wellness.
Many have given credit for this to Norman Cousins, an American journalist, who after years of prolonged pain from chronic illness of back “ankylosing spondylitis”, claims to have cured himself with self-invented regimen of Laughter. In his book “Anatomy of an Illness”, Cousins describes how watching comic movies helped him recover from his illness.
Research has shown that laughter has profound physical, psychological, social, mental and spiritual benefits.
Laughter Yoga or Laughter Therapy, a reliable and effective system to promote and deliver laughter is the brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, Guru of Giggling, Guru of Laughter, and the founder of Laughter Yoga Clubs worldwide. He started the first laughter club in Mumbai 1995.
The laughter yoga/ therapy is a new revolution in body and mind medicine that combines clapping, gentle stretching exercises, breathing (pranayama), laughter exercises, yoga postures and playfulness to enhance health and happiness. Anyone can laugh for no reason without relying on jokes, comedy or humour for 10-15 minutes.
The whole concept of laughter yoga is based on scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between the real and fake laughter and one gets the same physiological and psychological benefits either way.
This concept has been widely accepted worldwide and is being practised in hospitals, health clubs, corporate world, schools, senior citizen forums, physically and mentally challenged, prisons, very popular with tourists who visit India.
Laughter therapy, a complementary therapy in addition to conventional treatments provides immeasurable benefits to body and mind through various scientifically proved mechanisms which help in healing. It is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Humour lightens the burden, inspires hopes, connects to others and keeps one grounded, focused and alert.
Laughter triggers the release of Endorphins, the body’s natural feel good chemicals, which are natural pain killers, in turn helps to relieve pain and promotes an overall sense of wellbeing.
Laughter also boosts the immune system by reducing the release of stress hormone (cortisol). It increases numbers of the immune cells (the natural killer cells) T cells, Gamma Inferone and infections fighting antibodies, thus improving the resistance to diseases.( Dr.Lee Berk)
Laughter protects the heart, increases the oxygenation of tissues, improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which protects the heart against attacks and other cardiac problems. It acts as aerobic exercise just like “internal jogging”, in which the heart, lungs, digestive track, are all massaged. It is a good cardio-workout. It helps in lowering the blood pressure. Laughter also relaxes the whole body. A hearty laugh relieves the physical tension and stress and leaves muscles relaxed.
The mental health benefits of laughter are numerous, it relieves stress, improves moods, eases anxiety, fears and adds joys and zest to life also encouraging positive thinking, clarity and creativity.
Laughing in the Face of Cancer- Studies show that cancer patients who laugh, live longer. It is all scientific and related with the body chemistry. When one loves and laughs in the face of cancer, the body gets a message and does all that it can to help the survivor. The release of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, the cocktail of happy hormones, which changes the moods and one, feels good and cheerful which helps in healing.
Pranayama during the Laughter Exercises increase the oxygen supply to body and brain and helps in healing. When cells get oxygen; cancer will not and cannot occur (Dr.Otto Wanburg Institute of Cell Physiology, Noble Prize winner [twice])
Laughter raises the resistance against infections by boosting the immune system which improves the quality of life and chances of survival. Laughter, a very positive emotion, promotes a positive outlook and helps in the coping mechanism to defuse stress, fear, anxiety, depression, denial and anger which accompanied with cancer.
Laughter also helps to lift up the spirit and makes one feel happy, more active and empowered, boosts self-esteem and helps in healing process. As “Humour is the fastest and fleetest way of giving; It can change pain to joy in a mere millisecond”
Laugher is a great connector, laughing with friends and care givers, boosts the relationship and proves to be a strong element in healing mechanism as it keeps the relationships fresh and strong.
Laughter therapy sessions are being conducted for cancer survivors, children and caregivers once a week at Prasanthi, a rehabilitation centre of
Indian Cancer Society and twice a week at St Jude Children Centre, Noida, U.P.
Best of all this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.
Dr.Santosh Sahi, M.D.OBGY
Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher Laughter Ambassador; International Laughter Movement
Founder; Delhi Academy of Laughter Yoga
Volunteer; Indian Cancer Society