Laughter May Really Be the Best Medicine

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
11/27/2008 4:54 PM   :  65 comments

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Have you heard the one about the Indian yogi who teaches laughing yoga?

At first glance, this "fake" laughing seems more weird than funny, but it's apparently no joke. More than a few serious scientists have been looking into the physical effects of laughter, and have found that not only does it feel good, it’s very good for your health.

You don’t even need a sense of humor to reap the health benefits of laughing. If you’re the sort who finds it hard to spontaneously break out in a major belly laugh, you can always try a little “non-humor-dependent aerobic laughter” (leave it to the scientists to come up with a name like that!). If you're not exactly sure how to do it, you could join one of the 5000+ laughter clubs that have sprung up around the world to teach people how to do aerobic laughing, also known as laughter yoga.

Seriously. Classes are led by certified laughter teachers like Gail Robinson, who teaches laughter yoga in Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, and has this to say about it...


“Laughter causes the inner lining of blood vessels–the endothelium–to dilate,” says Robinson. This reduces resistance in the arteries and increases blood flow, “which lowers blood pressure and cholesterol buildup and reduces your heart rate and your chances of having heart disease.”

Dr. Lee Berk at Loma Linda University in California has published research demonstrating that laughter “diminishes the secretion of cortisol and epinephrine [the stress hormones], while enhancing immune system reactivity...[it] boosts secretion of growth hormone, an enhancer of key immune responses.” And all while you’re having a good time.

As reported in the latest issue of Fitness Matters (a bi-monthly newsletter for fitness professionals published by the American Council on Exercise), laughter yoga is an outgrowth of work done by Dr. Madan Kataria, who created the first laughter club in 1995. It’s based partly on the fact that, as Kataria says, “The body does not know the difference between simulated laughter and real laughter, and produces the same “happy” body chemistry” in response to either. So, you don’t need a reason to laugh in order to get the benefits of laughter yoga.

In laughter yoga classes, laughter is used as a form of breath work aimed at helping the student breath deeper into the abdomen. Some basic (and fairly easy) hatha yoga poses may also be utilized, but this isn’t a typical yoga class. Laughter yoga classes often begin with participants greeting each other and talking gibberish until people start breaking down in laughter, which as we all know, tends to be highly contagious.

So, the next time you’re feeling a little blue or stressed out, think about doing some laughter yoga. It may be just what you need.

For more info on Dr. Kataria’s laughter yoga program and classes, visit their website here.

Or if you want to go straight to the laughing part without a class, you can just visit this video featuring Allie, daughter of SP’s own tech master Jeremy, who is obviously quite accomplished at teaching people how to laugh.

So, what do you think? Is laughter your best medicine? I know that when I'm having a hard time (like today, when the hotel lost my reservation but somehow managed to charge me twice for it), stepping back and having a good laugh about the craziness of it all helps keep me from really going off the deep end. It's pretty hard to stay in a bad mood when you start laughing.


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Comments

  • 65
    I can relate to this; although I have never heard of laughter yoga before. Sometimes, when I really feel like laughing I will watch "The Golden Girls". - 3/14/2009   7:52:11 PM
  • EEKAMIGHTY
    64
    I enjoyed a laughter class. I felt silly at first as we all started out with fake laughter and silly comments. But, even those you thought were probably forced into the situation were gunuinely laughing in the end. I thought it was a great time and I must say it was bit of a work out to the belly and a mood elevator for absolute sure! I need to go again! - 2/22/2009   5:06:41 AM
  • 63
    LOL
    Laughter has always been the food for my soul Great Article - 2/22/2009   1:59:27 AM
  • CHERYLDALL34
    62
    i have always used my weight as a laugh to just laugh it off so that i would not be made fun of so i understand i love to laugh - 1/2/2009   7:04:52 PM
  • 61
    I laugh all the time....I am a big joker.....ask my co-workers..
    laughter helps pass time...and make life better...
    but....I still have high blood pressure for over a decade
    and on meds....so....it did not cure that.... :) - 1/2/2009   10:38:49 AM
  • 60
    I LOVE to laugh and Laughter is truely the BEST medicine for anything and anyone - 12/15/2008   2:46:43 PM
  • 59
    What a fun blog! I love to laugh and have a little different sense of humor so sometimes I end up being the only one laughing. - 12/14/2008   12:00:25 AM
  • 58
    It is great to see that the scientific reason behind why laughter is good medicine. I use humor and laughter every day on my job; I'd like to think that it helps relieve the tension and stress for those I visit as a therapist. I now can use it to help the people I see breathe better. - 12/1/2008   10:59:00 PM
  • 57
    I have a book titled "Bad Hair." It's a small book with nothing but pictures from beauty shops of really bad hairdo's (mostly from the 70's I think). The first time I looked through it I laughed so hard I cried. I bought the book and now I look through it every time I need a good laugh. It never fails to crack me up. I believe there is a quote by Norman Cousins (?) which says, "Laughter is like jogging for your insides." - 12/1/2008   10:05:08 PM
  • JOANNIEOS
    56
    Love this idea! It's one I intend to start incorporating into my daily activities immediately. - 12/1/2008   4:58:55 PM
  • 55
    Watched the Allie video - what a cute baby! And Daddy deserves an Oscar (LOL)! - 12/1/2008   9:50:11 AM
  • 54
    This may be just what I need today. I'm in a weird slump and tried blasting Christmas music on the way to the office to try and do the same.
    I think I'll try laughing on my break! - 12/1/2008   7:54:50 AM
  • 53
    Yep! I love the idea that there are other ways (besides medicine) that improve our health or heal our ailments! I am going to try harder to laugh each day. Thanks for the blog entry! Here is a YouTube clip that I LOVE!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P6U
    U6m3cqk
    - 11/30/2008   8:54:55 PM
  • 52
    I remember several years ago I was at work and having a stressful day. It was a really cold day and a customer came in.I looked up to help her and there on her ears were knitted ear warmers. They reminded me of Mr Spock's ears from Star Trek. I managed to excuse myself and ran to the back room. I laughed so hard I cried. I felt bad laughing at her ear warmers but I sure felt better.So yes I agree laughter is good for the body and the soul - 11/30/2008   8:11:42 PM
  • 51
    I laugh to the point of tears every day, actually.
    A friend of mine says she is so jealous of my ability to laugh like that.
    I find it seems to just happen... and once I start, I can't seem to stop.. I've always been like that. Strange... but maybe it's actually an even better thing than I thought!
    Hurray for laughter! It really is the best medicine! - 11/30/2008   12:49:46 PM
  • 50
    LOL!!!!

    The Bible says it best: "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine..."
    and on the other hand.... "... but a broken spirit drieth up the bones."

    I say, choose a merry heart!!!! The last thing you need is osteoporosis. ; ) - 11/30/2008   12:20:11 PM
  • 49
    I go hunting for humor everyday. I always try to see the lighter side of life. That's another reason I love Spark. I can always find a good joke somewhere. And I share the humor with all my friends. Take care and take your medicine-laugh a lot today! - 11/30/2008   12:05:18 PM
  • 48
    While tickling can be fun, it can also be painful. My father did what I call "gouge tickling." I wanted to have affection from him, so I would come back after I ran away. He seemed to think that meant I wanted more tickling -- which I didn't.

    For my own children, I was always careful to tickle lightly or for those who got overstimulated, to do tickles in the air above them. - 11/30/2008   11:12:55 AM
  • 47
    The LAUGHING YOGI has clips on YouTube.

    But, I laugh at watching Russell Peters on YouTube doing his comedy routine "Why you should beat your kids." He is so funny. - 11/30/2008   12:39:08 AM
  • 46
    interesting - had not heard of this. I know "tickle time" works wonders on my kids. - 11/29/2008   1:09:25 PM
  • 45
    Laughter is the perfect medicine and very affordable for all. It stimulates the immune system, messages your insides, burns calories, builds core ab muscles, and puts a nice smile on your face.

    I love laughter and all the good it does in the world! - 11/29/2008   12:11:13 PM
  • 44
    There's plenty in life to cry about - but a DESIRE to laugh leads me to focus on the humor, the ironies, the positives, and the things I am THANKFUL for. And gratefulness is also therapeutic. It also makes a person a more attractive and enjoyable person to be around!

    Somehow too, as laughter OPENS our arteries, LIFE can flow more freely through us, making our eyes sparkle - and that's contageous, too!

    Yep. I NEED to THINK LAUGHTER. That's why my motto and my SparkProfileID is LaughMore4Life! - 11/29/2008   8:41:18 AM
  • 43
    Laughter is definitely good, but I think I prefer getting it the old-fashioned way - great friends and family with positive attitudes - I love to laugh! - 11/29/2008   6:53:44 AM
  • 42
    laughter is defintley the best medicine. I have 2 dogs and 3 cats. I was in the family room,while my sons nurse and husband were upstairs in the kitchen. My 95# dog Jake was coming thru the door while I was holding one of my cats, she got scared and somehow ended up from my arms to my back, all claws out digging into me, all I could yell was "cat on my back",still no one heard me , yelled again "cat on my back"!!!Coming up the stairs still with a cat on my back hunched over they burst out laughing not knowing what the heck was going on, Cameron finally jumped off-We still laugh about it- A week ago when I was puttting laundry in the dryer, I kept hearing banging like a shoe, well it took me about 6 thumps before I relized there were no shoes in the dryer, it was my poor cat Cameron!!Needless to say theres a huge sign on the dryer now to keep door closed and always check washer and dryer. Yes and Thank God she is fine, just maybe a little more fluffed out!!! - 11/29/2008   6:25:18 AM
  • 41
    Oh I definitly believe laughter is the best medicine !!! I've seen it more then once. I'm a nurse and have seen it work it's miracles. Your whole attitude changes. You get a more positive and better outlook on situations when you try to look at the bright side of things. Think positive thoughts, associate with positive people, people who love to laugh. It can make the worst of times a lot less serious and help you get through those times. I've seen it in my own family, especially with my husband. He has a non stop and wonderful sense of humor, and has made me laugh through the worst of times. Laughing has helped us and others I've seen, more then once. I've also seen it work with patients being in such a depressed mood, because of pain or just their situation. Tell them something funny, and they laugh, their whole mood changes. You want to bring some sunshine into somebody's day, Make them laugh. Have a great day!
    KEEP SPARKLING !!! - 11/29/2008   12:45:04 AM
  • 40
    What a coincidence. As I sit here reading this article my house is filled with laughter as my kids and their friends play yet another round of Quelf! - 11/28/2008   9:02:43 PM
  • CHYRISSE
    39
    I have a very dear friend that when I'm down I talk to her and she always makes me laugh. Having MS I have learned that laughing and a sense of humor is a great medicine - 11/28/2008   8:32:04 PM
  • HAPPYANDLUCKY
    38
    I love the article! Thank you! Yes, laughter is the best medicine for many many reasons. - 11/28/2008   8:24:12 PM
  • 37
    Sometimes in life if you don't just laugh at how things are going, your head might pop off. I always tell my kids that instead of getting so angry , try to find the humor. It is much easier on the heart and mind! - 11/28/2008   6:00:46 PM
  • BREN_QUIST
    36
    My daughter is a real comedian. Not that she says a lot of funny things but the way she puts things makes everybody laugh. I make a call and I feel better. We laugh at just about everything. She is a real Blessing. - 11/28/2008   4:25:45 PM
  • 35
    I am a therapist and try to use laughter as much as I am able to help those who are depressed and/or anxious. I use laughter to deal with the many hurdles and obstacles I face each day as a blind person and a person with many life difficulties! Just arranging your face into a smile can make you feel better! Laughter is amazing medicine and I'm glad to see it receiving scientific bak up! - 11/28/2008   4:24:06 PM
  • 25LADY
    34
    We all need to laugh!! The best stress reducer bar none!! The real belly buster laughs that you cannot control are the best!! If you can get to a comedy club or just have a friend who can really crack you up, please invite them over & enjoy a great night!! - 11/28/2008   4:17:56 PM
  • 33
    Over the years, I've had a lot of hurdles to jump and even low-crawl under to survive. Without laughter helping me along the way, I just might not be hear to read all these comments. My late husband and I always said our marriage was such a huge success because of our ability to laugh. He was always making me giggle or just plain guffaw over something....laughing so hard we couldn't open our eyes and as it subsided, start all over again.

    After almost five years, I'm just getting back to the laughter. It sure makes life a little easier to take. - 11/28/2008   1:28:53 PM
  • 32
    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
    ;-p - 11/28/2008   12:24:55 PM
  • 31
    ON A RECENT ROAD TRIP ACROSS MONTANA I SAW A SIGN~~~"YOGA HEALER"~~~I WONDER IF THIS WAS RELATED TO THIS BLOG? I LAUGHED AT THE SIGN MAYBE IT WAS. I THOUGHT THE SIGN MEANT TO GET HEALED FROM DOING YOGA? - 11/28/2008   12:11:07 PM
  • 30
    My daughter called this morning to share her Black Friday shopping experience and I've not laughed so hard in a long while! Laughter can make your day start out great! - 11/28/2008   10:36:19 AM
  • CATWOMANDD
    29
    I went to a laughter yoga class at a women's retreat once and it was a blast! Not sure why I never checked it out again, hmmmm.... - 11/28/2008   10:18:46 AM
  • 28
    I always refer to "Laughing", as internal jogging.
    And it is great medicine. - 11/28/2008   10:18:28 AM
  • 27
    The Bible says in Proverbs, "A merry heart maketh good medicine."

    Why should we doubt it??? - 11/28/2008   9:57:18 AM
  • GROOVYKARMA1
    26
    I read an article in our newspaper today: 'Health benefits include relaxation and reduced stress, so doctors are more frequently prescribing 'the best medicine.'
    Hospitals embrace laughter therapy. 'Every time they laugh, it's like kicking the cancer out the door. Your're taking control, you're saying it's not controlling me."*Gloria Nelso, oncology social worker. This is a very good article by Ula Ilnytzky 'The Associated Press'. I do know from my own experience that laughter does make a big difference. I had to undergo surgery for ovarian cancer and my doctor came in, opened the curtains and turned on Comedy Central. He informed me that I had to watch that channel all day. He then sat and watched a show with me and we laughed and talked. I felt so great after he left. Talk about bedside manner.... - 11/28/2008   9:49:26 AM
  • 25
    This fake laughing may work. I think I'll try and find way to laugh for real. very unusual though. - 11/28/2008   8:46:24 AM
  • 24
    I helped a fellow nurse with a Laughter Therapy class last year. We took everyone's blood pressure when they first came in, and then after all of the laughter and joking around, every person's blood pressure had improved. And everyone left in a better mood, including the nurses! Laughter is truly the best medicine! - 11/28/2008   8:46:00 AM
  • 23
    Proverbs says "A merry heart does good like medicine." - 11/28/2008   8:39:21 AM
  • 22
    Watched a video on line last night of a man with a really funny laugh stealing the show from a comedian. My son and his friend and I couldn't stop laughing while watching it and when it was done I was thinking, wow, that was a workout on my stomach muscles!!!!! Felt really good too. I do believe that laughter is the best medicine. - 11/28/2008   8:21:00 AM
  • 21
    Funny you should bring this up (no pun intended ... OKAY! PUN INTENDED! LOL)
    I have always been an optomistic person, looking for the 'bright side' or the 'silver lining'. Some days it is tougher to find them, for sure!
    Take, for example, my ER visit about 6 weeks ago. (Cat accidently scratched me up; face, neck, arms & legs) My daughter was horrifed by the blood and gouges and almost passed out when she first saw me. The ER wait (3 hours) really made me MAD, but my daughter had accompanied me, per request of my husband, and by the time we got into the actual exam room we were both really tired (1 am!!!) But I kept an 'even keel' cracking jokes with my daughter and when it came time for a TETANUS shot in the arm, and an antibiotic shot in the behind, I guess I was THE most entertaining thing my daughter had ever seen - I had her in stitches (no pun intended .... OKAY, so pun intended!)
    I figure, we've got enough things in this life that are taken over seriously, and how much better/easier are things going to be if we're angry at the more simple things (traffic etc) than if we sit back and think, "Gee, everything happens for a reason" and find something HUMOROUS in our situations.
    Hm, maybe that's one of the reasons that the doctors don't take me seriously when I have a 'complaint'. I find something to LAUGH about. - 11/28/2008   8:14:56 AM
  • 20
    I love laughing and made it a mission to look for the fun and good things in life. We choose to be happy!!! Go have a good belly laugh. - 11/28/2008   7:57:22 AM
  • 19
    Laughter is the best medicine. It can take a very sressful spot and make everyone pause after to rationally think. I start my day out everyday by reading e-mails from friends & speading the laughter. - 11/28/2008   7:56:05 AM
  • MYGEORGE
    18
    Indeed laughter is the best medicine. - 11/28/2008   7:46:46 AM
  • 17
    I believe in the power of laughter. I know when I'm stressed or worried about stuff, I love watching a good comedy or listening to funny stories from family and friends, and I start feeling better once I have a good belly laugh. - 11/28/2008   7:44:33 AM
  • 16
    It's not really fake laughter! Laughter is quite contageous. I had an aquafit instructor who also talk laughter yoga. She wasn't allowed to teach it at the "Y", but somehow she'd incorporate laughter as part of the aquafit classes. It was amazing how the laughter spread around the class. It was a good class to start a day with. - 11/28/2008   7:41:08 AM

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