The Role of Laughter as Therapy in Natural Medicine

Martin Combrinck, South Africa
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Tuesday, 23 April 2013 13:28:06

Much has been said in the media lately about the benefits of laughter and why we should laugh more. The fact is that we were born with the gift of laughter - it lifts our spirits and makes us more joyful. Laughter as therapy aims to use the natural physiological process of laughter to help relieve physical or emotional stresses or discomfort.

Research Supporting Laughter Therapy

There is an increasing body of research that supports the theory that laughter has therapeutic value. Over the years, researchers have conducted studies to explore the impact of laughter on health.

However, laughter as an alternative pain treatment isn't a new idea. As early as the 13th century humour has been used in medicine to distract patients from pain.

In the 20th century, a scientific study was conducted on the effect of humour on physical wellness. Many credit this to Norman Cousins, a journalist and author of the book Anatomy of an Illness. After years of prolonged pain from a serious illness, Cousins describes in his book how he cured himself with a self-invented regimen of laughter and vitamins.

Today more than ever before, people are turning to laughter for therapy and healing. Medical journals have recognised that laughter therapy can help improve quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses. Laughter as therapy is offered by many hospitals as a complementary management to illness.

From Craze to Fashion

The concept of using laughter without jokes, comedy or humour was initiated by a medical doctor fromIndia, Dr Madan Kataria in 1995. His thought was that if laughter relies on humour alone, it excludes a lot of people from gaining the benefits. His goal was to demonstrate that laughter can be approach as a form of exercise and that we can laugh "just for the sake of laughing" and for no reason, without the use of humour.

Dr Kataria’s proposal started the Laughter Yoga movement, which is now practised in more than 70 countries by thousands of people every day. Combining laughter with simple breathing techniques, childlike playfulness and mindfulness, people from all over the world receive the health benefits of laughter on a daily basis.

Since 1995, the concept of Laughter Yoga has grown and new applications and research are conducted continuously. Some of the research studies include the following:

Laughter Yoga and Cancer

If you are faced with a serious illness like cancer, it might sound strange that laughter can be beneficial and a tool towards recovery. The fact is that laughter can be very helpful. When laughter is used in conjunction with conventional cancer treatment, laughter therapy may help in the overall healing process. Laughter helps you to see the world in a new light and you feel more positive about life and your surroundings in general.

Laughter Yoga and Business

Laughter has much to offer in the business world. Laughter Yoga is a powerful force for improving staff performance in the workplace. Recent studies inIndiaand theUSAshowed substantial stress reduction and a big increase in staff ability to perform their jobs after just three weeks of Laughter Sessions.

Regular Laughter sessions may achieve the following benefits: stress reduction and the ability to cope with stress better; improvements in creativity and motivation; increased efficiency, innovation and problem solving abilities; reduced absenteeism; and health improvement, which impacts positively on medical health cost.

A recent study, conducted byDeakinUniversity's School of Psychology, on the effects of Laughter Yoga, found that it has a real and positive effect on workplace well-being.

Laughter Yoga and Depression

Laughter Yoga has helped numerous people to triumph over severe depression all over the world as it uses laughter in the form of physical exercise rather than using humour. This means that anyone can laugh, regardless of their state of mind and cognitive ability. Healh professionals have started using laughter yoga to help with biopolar depression.

Laughter and Your Heart

There are two recently published articles that reaffirm the effectiveness of laughter in maintaining good physical and mental health, while especially keeping cardio-vascular diseases in check.

The findings confirm previous studies that suggested a link between mental stress and the narrowing of blood vessels, according to the lead researcher, Michael Miller of the University of Maryland School of Medicine inBaltimore. “The take-home message here is laughing is great for your heart. Prescription for health should include laughter,” says Dr Miller.

Laughter Yoga and Organ Transplants

Patients awaiting organ transplantation have significant physical disabilities and are at risk for psychological distress. A recent study by theArizonaCenter for Integrative Medicine,University ofArizona, showed that that laughter yoga improved HRV and some aspects of mood in patients awaiting transplants.

The study’s results also suggested that laughter yoga may increase feelings related to liveliness, activation, cheerfulness and friendliness. The study’s findings provide preliminary evidence that laughter yoga could indeed be a beneficial therapeutic practice.

Rediscover your inner laughter by learning how to laugh for no reason at all and see how Laughter Therapy endeavour to help you use and enjoy laughter as a tool for self healing.

According to some studies, the use of   laughter as therapy may provide the following benefits:

 * Boost the immune system and circulatory system

 * Increase oxygen intake

 * Stimulate the heart and lungs

 * Relax muscles throughout the body

 * Trigger the release of endorphins (the body’s natural   painkillers)

 * Ease digestion/soothes stomach aches

 * Relieve pain

 * Improve mental functions (i.e., alertness, memory,   creativity)

Laughter therapy may also help to:

 * Improve overall mental attitude

 * Reduce stress/tension

 * Promote relaxation

 * Improve sleep

 * Enhance quality of life

 * Strengthen social bonds and relationships

 * Produce a general sense of well-being

 

www.laughter4africa.org.za

Martin Combrinck

Certified Laughter Yoga Professional & Coach

South Africa

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 23 April 2013 13:28:06 )
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