Posted by: Thixia | March 28, 2008

Healing Power of Laughter 2 of 3

You can test the principle yourself.  Pick up this newspaper and laugh at it.  If you really go for it, it may make you feel good and you’ll find yourself laughing more.  You may even laugh at yourself laughing.  If anyone laughs at you laughing at yourself, then essentially you’re doing Laughter Yoga.

Pointless, contagious laughter, which Kataria would explain in his book Laugh for No Reason, is its own reward.  Tens of thousands of people have joined the laughter movement claiming dramatic health improvements, weight loss, mood elevation, even treatment of serious disease, all at essentially no cost.

The laughter isn’t actually pointless, of course, because the point is to reap the significant physical and emotional benefits of laughing.

Kataria has now quit his job as a doctor and travels the world telling people to laugh for “no reason.

We all know the chestnut “laughter is the best medicine.” Until recently, that had no scientific basis.  Now, in the last 15 years, science is buttressing laughter’s impressive therapeutic properties.  According to a growing number of sometimes overly enthusiastic adherents, the new laughter has the potential to cure disease, kill pain, lift the spirit and even get people into shape.

We may be witnessing the first great era of publicly encouraged laughter.  Comedy festivals are creatures of the modern era.  The world’s first major laughing festival, Montreal’s own ‘Just for Laughs’, celebrated its 25th anniversary last summer.

Even though Norman Cousins was a man of tremendous accomplishments — under his direction the Saturday Review went from a circulation of 20,000 to 650,000 and in the early 1970s, he became a distinguished university professor — his laughter experience was still seen as a little out there.

The Laughing Man’s theories even apply to the recent controversy over a new study that says antidepressant drugs don’t work.  What those studies revealed is that in most cases, expensive antidepressants like Prozac are no more effective than a placebo.

What wasn’t mentioned was that placebos can be shockingly effective.  If people believe they’re taking something that will help their condition, they often improve.  Cousins was obsessed with this mystery and connected it to his laughter cure.  Believing you could be cured and expressing exuberance for your cure (laughter) could be part of the cure itself.

But perhaps the most intriguing recent laughter breakthrough involves humour.  A common misread of Cousins’s experience credits him with the discovery that “humour is healthy.”  Few would argue that having a sense of humour is a healthy thing, but it wasn’t humour or positive thinking that saved Cousins, he believed — it was laughter.  There is a critical distinction.

When Cousins practised healing laughter, he cultivated a powerful and intense belly laugh.  Big, exuberant laughs trigger more laughter as the human body seems to catch laughter from itself.  The bond of laughter may help explain its therapeutic value.  Laughter bonds babies to parents, friends to friends, co-workers to co-workers, lovers, teammates, families and even cultures together.

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