The funny medicine just got better

Friday, 28 October 2005 - 6:14pm IST
Even as laughter clubs mushroom, research says that laughter therapy helps in problems ailing the aged

It is universal, contagious and natural. Each of us has been afflicted by it at some point or the other. It helps break barriers and reach out to people. And the best part is that it is free and has no side effects. Greet Mr Laughter with a smile.

Mr Laughter loves to invade dull and depressing moments. His entry brings in cheer and has been known to cure the sick. The therapeutic use of laughter - to relieve stress, combat disease and strengthen the immune system - has gained much medical respectability in the last two decades. Norman Cousins, the late editor of The Saturday Review, is considered the pioneer in this therapy. He was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis and while doctors gave up on him, he brought forth the healing power of laughter by watching comedies and indulging in 10 minutes of genuine belly laughter.

Actor Robin Williams immortalised the legendary case of Hunter 'Patch' Adams who believed in the adage - Laughter is the best medicine - and developed laughter therapy  at the Gesundheit Institute in Virginia, USA.

Closer home, Dr Madan Kataria, a Mumbai-based physician, harnessed the power of laughter.

As founder of Laughter Club International, he is credited with initiating over 300 laughter clubs in the country. Each club conducts regular group laughter sessions.

Across the world, laughter has been known to successfully keep away negative emotions like anxiety and depression, which tend to weaken the immune system. Through laughter yoga 10 important organs of the body - eyes, ears, nose, tongue, arms, neck, hands, back, legs and heart-are exercised. It relieves stress, a common cause of heart and blood pressure problems. It improves lung capacity and oxygen levels in the blood and thus alleviates complaints of asthma and bronchitis.

It also releases endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, thus reducing the frequency and intensity of arthritic pain and muscular spasms. It is also helpful in insomnia, migraines, allergies and ulcers. Cousins called laughter as 'inner jogging.  An added advantage of laughter is that it makes you look and feel younger.

The power of laughter is unleashed every time we laugh. Spread the power today!

Prescription for you

Incorporate laughter in your daily life. Though it seems odd in the beginning, soon you will be laughing your days off.

Join a laughter club in your area. Most of them are free and it will help you make new friends.

Though laughter has innumerable benefits, patients with hernia, advanced piles, eye complications, pregnant women, those who have just undergone major surgery should not venture into this therapy without the explicit advice of a doctor.

Avoid people who are constantly negative. They can diminish positive energy.

Call up an old friend and talk about funny moments that you have shared.

Laughter has changed my life and now everything seems amusing to me. My tolerance and patience level has gone up and I am enjoying life much more now. In the western countries, laughter therapy has been introduced in old age homes and helped the aged to overcome depression and also to exercise their bodies without much movement because they have limitation of movements due to arthritis. Try it and today, laugh for no reason!
-Dr Madan Kataria

I enrolled into a laughter club after I retired in 1997. I enjoy every moment of my work as a trainer now. Imagine laughing your way to work!
-Atmaram Torane

Laughter is good for older persons as it helps them cope with the changes and is a pastime full of joy!
-Nergish P Olia

Joining a laughter club has helped me shed my inhibitions and enjoy laughing as a hobby!
-Juliana Warty

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