Scientists say that laughter is good for body and mind:
Over the past two decades, extensive research has been conducted all over the world and it has been proved that laughter has a positive impact on various systems of the body. Laughter helps to remove the negative effects of STRESS, which is the number one killer today. More than 70% of illnesses like high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, frequent coughs and colds, peptic ulcer, insomnia, allergies, asthma, menstrual difficulties, tension headaches, stomach upsets and even cancer have some relations to stress. Also, it has been proved beyond a shadow of doubt that laughter helps to boost our immune system, which is the master key for maintaining good health.
But people have forgotten to laugh:
Scientists are convinced that laughter has both preventative and therapeutic value. But these days, where is laughter? It seems that people have forgotten to laugh. According to a study done by Dr. Micheal Titze, a German Psychologist, “in the 1950’s people used to laugh 18 minutes a day but today we laugh not more than 6 minutes a day despite huge rises in the standard of living.” Children can laugh up to 300-400 times in a day but when we become an adult it comes down to just 15 times a day. Due to over seriousness our sense of humour is also getting sick. The things at which we used to laugh heartily 30 years ago no longer stimulate even the faintest smile.
Purpose of Laughter
Laughter is only for amusement and entertainment so that one can feel relaxed. Laughter is not merely a physical phenomenon. It does not make any sense if a laughter club member laughs a lot in the laughter club in the morning but screams and shouts at his wife the whole day at home. Therefore, one should not laugh only for oneself so it is also the responsibility of every laughter club member to make others feel happy. Laughter should be reflected from one’s behaviour and attitude towards others.
The members of laughter clubs not only laugh but also practice ways and means of sensible living. Through group discussions we identify all the negative factors which stop us from laughing. For example: anger, fear, guilt and jealousy are some of the negative emotions which produce negative feelings in us. In a group effort we try to cultivate positive emotions like love, appreciations, kindness, forgiveness and joy.
The motto of a laughter club member is not only to make themselves happy but make others happy also. This is known as SPIRIT OF LAUGHTER. The inner spirit of laughter can be cultivated easily in a group effort. As a group the members of laughter clubs inspire and motivate each other. We know so many good things in life
but we don’t get motivation to practise them. But if we do it in a group it happens in a much easier way.
Scientific Rationale of Yoga and Laughter
All organs are made of tissue. To keep the organs in good health they need a constant supply of nourishment like proteins, carbohydrates, fats, salts, minerals and vitamins. These come from the food we eat. The supply depends on their quality, the power of the digestion and the absorption of the digestive system. The circulatory and digestive systems must be efficient for the nutrients to reach all parts of the body. Then oxygen is required for the body’s metabolism to work. To get more oxygen the respiratory system must be in perfect order.
The act of breathing is a natural form of massage/exercise for the major digestive organs. The abdominal muscles need to be exercised regularly for this massage to be effective. The act of laughing, e.g. belly laughs and the act of raising ones arms up and taking a deep breath, is what the scientists call ‘internal jogging’. Regular laughing not only strengthens the abdominal muscles and gives a constant massage – it holds the abdominal organs in their proper place to ensure digestion and absorption.
The Link between Laughter and Yoga
Yoga creates a balance of mind, body, spirit. Laughter is a cognitive, affective and behavioural response. The word yoga arises form the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’ which means to get hold of, integrate, harmonise. So Dr. Kataria, founder of the world’s first laughter club, deliberately structured laughter exercises on yoga exercises.
Start with deep breathing – Pranayama.
Interrupt the laughter exercises with deep breathing.
Raising your arms up to the sky
Raising arms up to the sky on breathing in.
Holding it for 4 seconds and then breathing out.
The exhalation should be double that of the inhalation – this is known as Talasana in yoga. Prolonged exhalation helps remove the residual air in the lungs which contains more carbon dioxide. This is how deep breathing helps increase the oxygen supply to the body.
Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha exercise
When we laugh there is a rhythmic movement of the diaphragm, abdominal muscles and intercostals muscles between the ribs. So clapping and chanting Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha in unison helps remove inhibitions – the atmosphere gets charged and people start smiling and giggling. The clapping helps stimulate the acupressure points on the hand.
This is followed by a number of laughter exercises such as milkshake laughter, mobile phone laughter, lion laughter, gradient laughter, etc.
Benefits of Laughter
Laughter is the most economical and easy anti-stress measure. It is a muscle relaxant, expands the blood vessels, and reduces the stress hormones in the body such as epinephrine and cortisol. To reduce stress via other methods takes a lot of mental effort to detach oneself from the physical world. To laugh is a natural process and all the senses naturally and effortlessly combine in a moment of harmony.
Strengthens the Immune System
It has been proved that negative emotions like anxiety, depression and anger weaken the immune system and the capacity to fight infections. Laughter increases the level of NK cells (Natural Killer cells – Dr Lee S. Berk Loma Linda University California) and raises antibody levels. It can raise the levels of antibodies in mucus found in the nose and throat – many regular laughter club members have found a drop in the number of coughs and colds they would normally get.
Best Aerobic Exercise
Laughing drives a sense of well being. 15 minutes laughing in the morning sets you up for the day. Dr William Fry (Stanford University) reckons 1 minute laughing is worth 10 minutes on a rowing machine. This will help sedentary people most of all. e.g. those disabled or in a wheel chair.
Depression and Anxiety
Modern living is taking a heavy toll on the mind. Depression, anxiety, nervous breakdowns and sleeping difficulties are said to be on the increase. Laughing has helped reduce reliance on drugs and people in India are getting better sleep.
High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease
10 minutes laughing will drop blood pressure by 10-20mm. It is not recommended to replace modern medication but it helps. Perhaps the medication can be reduced. Laughter helps the blood circulation and oxygen supply to muscles.
Natural Pain Killer
Laughter increases the levels of endorphins in our bodies which are natural pain killers. Norman Cousins, an American journalist, was suffering from an incurable spine condition. No pain killers would help so he locked himself away and watched comedy videos – friends brought ‘candid camera’ videos. After laughing at the videos this allowed him to get periods of over 2 hours of pain free sleep. He cured him self and wrote a book. Norman Cousins had stimulated the interest in the academic/medical community to formally research the benefits of laughing.
Laughing provides a massage for the internal organs. It enhances blood supply and increases their efficiency. The best effect is to the intestines; it improves blood supply and helps the bowels to move properly
Makes you look younger – Exercise for the Face
There is no exercise except yoga designed for the facial muscles. Laughing is excellent for the facial muscles. When you laugh the face becomes red due to the increase in blood supply nourishing the skin and makes the face glow. It squeezes the tear glands and makes the eyes sparkle.
Interpersonal Relationships and Self Confidence
Laughter brings people together. Laughter club members meet with an open mind and care for each other. Laughing in a group helps to remove inhibitions. Looking an idiot is a fear which may prevent some people joining in – this is a passing phase. Joining a laughing club opens the mind and gradually you gain self confidence. Laughter clubs is another way to meet people of like mind creating small communities with a sense of affiliation.
Please note: Understand You Laughter activities and materials are not designed to take you away from whatever healing or health programmes you are on – whether orthodox or alternative. Instead it is meant to enhance and support your own chosen process and growth. In the field of healing there are no guarantees, and there are as many routes to healing and health as there are people. Hopefully, the Understand You Laughter activities and materials will inspire and support you in whatever path you choose.
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