Laughter provides a form of physical and emotional release. After you have experienced a time of extended laughter, you might notice you feel more relaxed and content. This is due, in part, to the aerobic nature of laughing: you exercise your abdominal muscles during the course of laughing. Laughter therapy's premise, therefore, is that laughter increases well-being by creating a heightened sense of relaxation and happy feelings.
Laughter has long been considered a natural catharsis. The old saying "laughter is the best medicine" holds true throughout numerous scientific studies. While no concrete date exists for the development of laughter therapy and its use in relaxation, it became a significant part of the healing process for medical doctors such as Patch Adams, who created the Gesundheit Institute in the 1970s in an effort to make medicine more friendly for patients.
Adams's approach of providing laughter and joy to his patients is echoed by other medical practitioners. In 1995, Dr. Madan Kataria created Laughter Yoga after studying the benefits of laughter on sick patients. Laughter Yoga utilizes the breathing techniques of yoga coupled with group laughter that uses no comedic props. Laughter therapy continues to gain footing as a way to reduce stress, relax and increase overall individual health.
Laughter therapy helps to reduce feelings of stress and induces relaxation and contentedness. It also helps to switch focus from negative feelings to more positive feelings. Laughter also emotionally connects us to people in ways other emotional activities do not. Laughter is also contagious: you are more likely to laugh if you see another person laughing. According to a writer on the website Helpguide, laughter also helps to release inhibitions, allows you to express your true feelings, makes you more spontaneous and helps you release your defensiveness. People who are more prone to laughter are often more creative than people who lack a sense of humor.
You might physically feel cleansed after enjoying a good laugh. Health-wise, laughter provides the benefit of reduced cortisol levels. When you laugh, you exercise the abdominal muscles and your lungs. You increase the blood flow to your heart and brain because you take in more oxygen while laughing. Because of the increased oxygen flow, bodily tissues tends to heal more quickly. Reduced stress helps reduce blood pressure and decreases the heart rate because the body naturally relaxes after a period of laughter. In the journal "Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine," M. P. Bennett et al. studied the effects of mirthful laughter on the body's ability to heal. Preliminary findings indicated laughter increases patients' ability to fight diseases such as cancer and HIV.
In 2007, UCLA scientists studied the effect of laughter on pain management. Preliminary results indicated children who watched funny videos while experiencing physical discomfort were better able to cope than those who did not watch the videos. Dr. Kataria's Laughter Yoga classes focus on breathing techniques inspired by laughter. The goal of yoga is to regulate breathing to increase blood flow, and deep belly-laughs are an essential part of the program. Independent laughter therapy can take many forms.
An artist whose work has become stale and monotonous can recover her creativity by interacting creatively with children. Children laugh 300 to 400 times per day, while adults laugh on average of 10 to 15 times per day. Another way you can implement this is to surround yourself by optimistic adults. You might find yourself feeling more happy and relaxed when you are in the presence of joyful people, which is the goal of laughter therapy and relaxation.
- "Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine"; The Effect of Mirthful Laughter on Stress and Natural Killer Cell Activity; M. P. Bennett, J. M. Zeller, L. Rosenberg, and J. McCann; 2003
- India Diets: Laughter Therapy
- Helpguide: Laughter is the Best Medicine
- Laughter Yoga: How Laughter Yoga Reduces Mental Stress
- Laughter Yoga: Concept and Philosophy
- Photo Credit Laughter image by Stepanov from Fotolia.com
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