Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Laugh A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

There’s nothing funny about being diagnosed with cancer, your Dad falling out a third floor window to his death and your wife and the authorities highly recommending that you get sober! But that is what May, 1998 looked like for me. I needed an alternative to cope with the curve balls life was throwing at me. I was very stressed-out and that’s when I decided to stop crying and start laughing my back to mental, emotional and physical health! I implemented a Stress Management Program through Laughter Therapy.

What is Laughter Therapy? Laughter Therapy is a form of eustress that releases those bad and distressful emotions that cause harmful chemical effects on the body. Laughter Therapy has 2 components, 1) Laughter Exercises and 2) Laughter Meditation. The Laughter Exercises are like any other form of aerobic exercise; that is why your stomach sometimes feels sore after a good belly laugh. There are two stages to laughter: the arousal phase--when the heart rate increases--and the resolution phase--when the heart rests. A person's heart can reach up to 120 beats per minute (bpm) when laughing. Laughing can lower your blood pressure, increase vascular flow, and boost the immune system. It gives the diaphragm, abdominal, intercostals, respiratory accessory, and facial muscles a complete workout. Some people, depending on how they laugh, may even use their arm, leg, and back muscles when laughing. The Laughter Meditation helps to release endorphins in the brain; these are our bodies' natural pain killers. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that attach to the same receptors in our brains as the opiates. Opiate drugs not only cause us to lose touch with reality, but they also numb pain. When we laugh, it releases the endorphins in our brain; thus, laughing is like taking opium or morphine without the adverse side effects.

Did you know children laugh on average of 400 times per day, and adults only laugh 15 times per day? So if laughter is so good, why are we not doing more of it? Dr. Madan Kataria, a Physician in Bombay, India started the first of the Laughing Clubs International in March of 1995. In a years time eighty clubs had spread throughout India, and Kataria hopes other countries will follow their lead. The members of these clubs generally gather in the park in the morning before work. They raise their arms in the air, to erase inhibitions, and start with Ho-ho, ha- ha, Silent laughter with mouth closed, and then Silent laughter with mouth open. Some of the laughing clubs also incorporate jogging with their laughing. When asked why they did not just tell jokes to laugh he replied "at first we did take the help of jokes, but the stock of good jokes was over after about 15 days. After that, stale and silly jokes came. Camel jokes, vulgar jokes. It was no good." Members of the laughing clubs say they feel better, some say they have even lost weight, others say they are not depressed, and still others say it has helped to get out of the house, and meet people. In fact, I was so impressed with Dr. Kataria’s work that I personally invited him to Chicago for a speaking and press tour. After we completed our week together and I better understood his program and philosophies of Laughter Yoga, I decided to start my own Laughter Club, The Chicago Live Life Laughing Laughter Club. We meet the Third Wednesday of every month at the Palatine Township Senior Center in Palatine, IL. You can find out more information about the club by visiting my web site at:
Do we laugh because we are happy, or are we happy because we laugh? Both of these are probably true, but we only exercise the former. Laughter is a fascinating phenomenon that works like a medicine. Although most drugs affect everyone differently, laughter is always the same. It exercises your entire body causing you to feel relaxed and pain free. The fact that laughter is good for one's health should be quite evident. So why not laugh? When one laughs, it is like taking a drug, yet there is no such thing as an overdose or, "laughter toxicity," as Kataria says. Maybe we can now say "A laugh a day keeps the doctor away."

If you have any questions relative to this article or my Laughter Club, please call, email or visit my web site.

Cordially yours,
Doug Dvorak

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