Scientific studies have proved that hearty laughter has a powerful and immediate strengthening effect on the immune system. It quickly increases immunoglobulin levels that help fight infection and increases the number of Natural Killer Cells (NK cells), which play a key role in cancer prevention.
Therapies like laughter have also proved very beneficial in reducing the trauma and the stress usually accompanying the disease. Patients, doctors and health-care professionals feel that laughter may indeed be the best medicine.
Recently, a nonprofit Cancer Resource and Wellness Community (Carewell) in Makati City, Philippines organized a laughter session for cancer patients and introduced them to Laughter Yoga as an approach to battling the disease, by lifting the psychological and emotional weight that comes with it.
As the session began the participants closed their eyes, took a deep breath, and let out a loud Hahahahaha! A symphony of laughter filled the room and the two-hour session of mirth and merriment helped the patients to forget everything about the Big C.
I just forgot about everything, said Jenny Rose Fevrer, 37, who was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in August last year. Back home, you feel all that stress. But here, it was all fun. It just feels good.
Holding the baton, so to speak, was Paolo Trinidad, a family counselor and founder of Pinoy Laughter Yoga (PLY), a 5-year-old movement that prescribes diaphragmatic laughter as a way to relax, improve ones mood and boost the immune system. Laughter exercises, he said, are also designed to increase the level of serotonin, a chemical regarded by some researchers as responsible for maintaining mood balance.
Carewell managing director Oliver Calasanz agreed that keeping cancer patients stress-free is an important part of their healing process since their state of mind can affect their level of response to treatment. And the better the response, the longer the life expectancy, he said. He also added that the stress-relieving power of Laughter Yoga also lies in its ability to make people relate to each others condition, giving them the psychosocial support they need to overcome the feeling of helplessness, isolation or loss of control.