Studies on laughter reveal that it can help protect the health of the heart, reduce incidence of stroke, can increase tolerance to pain, help boost the immune system through production of antibodies, reduces blood pressure, reduces overall anxiety and can even extend life. It has been shown that chronically angry and hostile people tend to have more heart attacks and those who are chronically depressed have higher incidences of heart disease. Every part of our bodies benefit from laughter and humour and it’s a wonder we get so caught up in the seriousness of our lives that we forget to take a moment just to have a good belly laugh.
When we laugh, stress related hormones decrease significantly. Patients with chronic illnesses show immediate symptom relief with laughter and several programs have been designed around this principle in hospitals. Doctors and psychiatrists even subscribe to laughter therapy to help patients deal with their pain and recovery. “Laughter is the best medicine” is the case for therapeutic humour. This type of therapy encourages discussion of the patient’s humourous experiences in life. Clown therapy has been implemented in hospitals where a hired clown will make rounds and display magic, tell jokes or perform slapstick to entertain patients and make them laugh. Where implemented, the need for sedative is reduced, yet there is an overall decrease in pain reported by patients. Other patients experience an increase in immune function and healing.
Laugh clubs and laughter meditation groups have also formed all over the world where laugher is used as preventative medicine. At regular intervals groups of people meet and laugh. Sometimes the laugh is natural, other times it is forced, however it seems that in either cases the body does not know the difference, and the body chemistry result is the same for both. Laughter yoga was developed by Dr. Madan Kataria in the 1990’s to combine breathing, yoga, stretching and laughter. With this technique no laughing material is necessary as laughing happens without reason. The willingness to laugh is the biggest prerequisite to the courses.