Health Benefits of Laughter Therapy
Dr. Kataria's School of Laughter Yoga

It is more than five years now, since the first ‘Laughter Club’ was set up. There is a growing demand for opening such clubs at many more places in India and abroad. Almost everyday, more and more people are joining Laughter Clubs and are being benefited. One of the reasons for these  benefits is of course that laughter puts the members in a positive frame of mind and gradually makes them positive thinkers. People suffering from a variety of stress related diseases have benefited in some way or the other.

Anti Stress: Laughter is one of the finest, most economical and easy to practice anti-stress measures. Laughter is one of the best muscle relaxant. Laughter expands blood vessels and sends more blood rising to the extremities and other muscles all over the body. A good bout of laughter also reduces the levels of stress hormones epineprine and cortisol. It can be said to be a form of dynamic meditation or relaxation. For meditation, one has to put in a concerted effort to completely detach oneself, on mental and emotional levels, from one’s own feelings and thought processes, as well as from the physical world to prevent distractions. On the other hand, while laughing, we do not have any conscious thought process and all our senses naturally and effortlessly combine in a moment of harmony, to give joy, peace and relaxation. In other types of meditation you need to concentrate a lot to take your mind away from distracting thoughts, which is easier said than done. Therefore, laughter is, if I may say so, the easiest form of meditation, which brings you instant relaxation.

Strengthens the Immune System: Our immune system plays a most important role in keeping good health and keeping away infections, allergies and cancers. It has been proved by psychoneuroimmunologists that all negative emotions like anxiety, depression or anger weaken the immune system of the body, thereby reducing its fighting capacity against infections. According to Dr. Lee S. Berk from Loma Linda University, California, USA, laughter helps to increase the count of natural killer cells (NK cells - a type of white cell) and also raises the antibody levels. Researchers have found that after laughter therapy there is an increase in antibodies (Immunoglobulin A) in the mucous on of the nose and respiratory passages, which is believed to have protective capacity against some viruses, bacteria and other micro organisms. There are many members of Laughter Clubs who have noticed that the frequency of common colds, sore throats and chest infections has decreased. The effect of laughter on our immune system is considered to be very significant in regard to deadly disease like AIDS and Cancer.

Best Aerobic Exercise: The one benefit almost everybody derives is a sense of well-being. After 15 minutes of laughter in the morning, they feel fresh throughout the day. There is no medicine like laughter, which gives you such an instant result. The reason for the sense of well being is that you inhale more oxygen while laughing. Laughter can be compared to any aerobic exercises except you don't have to wear fancy shoes or clothes. You don't need to sweat out hard on the jogging tracks. According to Dr. William Fry from Standford University one minute of laughter is equal to 10 minutes on the rowing machine. In other words, laughter stimulates heart and blood circulation equivalent to any other standard aerobic exercise. Laughter exercise is suited for sedentary people and those who are confined to bed or wheel chair.

Depression, anxiety and psychosomatic disorders: The stress and strain of modern life are taking a heavy toll of the human mind and body. Mind-related diseases like anxiety, depression, nervous breakdowns and sleeplessness are on the rise. Laughter has benefited many people who were on heavy anti depressant pills and tranquillizers. Now they are getting better sleep and their depression has reduced. People with suicidal tendencies have started living with more hope.

High Blood Pressure and Heart disease: There are a number of causes for high blood pressure and heart disease like heredity, obesity, smoking and excessive intake of saturated fats. But stress is one of the major factors. Laughter definitely helps to control blood pressure by reducing the release of stress related hormones and bringing relaxation. 
In experiments it has been proved that there is a drop of 10-20 mm. pressure after participating for 10 minutes in a laughter session. It does not mean that those who are taking 2-3 tablets for blood pressure everyday will be completely cured. Maybe, you will require 2 tablets if you are taking 3, or borderline high blood pressure patients may not require any medication after some time. It takes years to develop high blood pressure. It cannot be reversed in a few days or a month. But definitely laughter will exercise some control and arrest further progress of the disease.
Similarly, if you are at high risk of developing heart disease, laughter could be the best preventive medicine. Those who are suffering from heart disease and have stabilized on medication will find that laughter improves the blood circulation and oxygen supply to the heart muscles. Due to improvement of blood circulation there are less chances of forming a clot. Those who have had heart attacks or have undergone bypass surgery can also participate in a laughter Club's  laughter therapy.

Natural Pain Killer: Laughter increases the levels of endorphins in our bodies, which are natural pain killers. Norman Cousins, an American journalist who was suffering from incurable disease of the spine was benefited with laughter therapy when no painkiller could help him. Endorphins released as a result of laughter may help in reducing the intensity of pain in those suffering from arthritis, spondylitis and muscular spasms of the body. Many women have reported a reduced frequency of migraine and tension headaches.

Alleviates Bronchitis and Asthma: Laughter is one of the best exercises for those suffering from asthma and bronchitis. It improves the lung capacity and oxygen levels in the blood. Doctors recommend chest physiotherapy to bring out mucous (phlegm) from the respiratory passages. Blowing forcefully into an instrument and blowing balloons is one of the common exercises given to asthmatics. Laughter does the same job, more easily and almost free of cost. There are many individuals suffering from asthma and bronchitis who are members of Laughter Clubs. They have reported a reduced frequency of their attacks. Laughter therapy may cause some discomfort if you have severe bronchospasm. There is a small percentage of asthma cases who may get a little aggravation by doing any exercise (exercise induced asthma). Such individuals should consult their doctors before taking up laughter therapy.
One of the most common causes for frequent attacks of asthma is infection. Laughter Therapy increases the antibody levels in the mucous membranes of the respiratory passages, thereby reducing the frequency of chest infections. It also tones up the normal mucous clearing system of the bronchial tubes. Stress is another factor, which can bring on an attack of asthma. By reducing stress, laughter can improve the prognosis of the disease.

Improves Stamina in Athletes: Since breathing capacity is one of the factors which determines stamina in sports, laughter before any competitive sports activity will increase the relaxation levels and hence, performance. Laughter, I think, can be beneficially introduced as a regular exercise in any kind of sports activity.

Internal Jogging: There are plenty of exercises available for your body muscles, but laughing  provides a good massage to all internal organs. It enhances their blood supply and increases their efficiency. It has been compared to magic fingers, which reach into the interior of the abdomen and massage your organs. The best massage it gives is to the intestines. It improves the blood supply and helps the bowels to move properly.

Good for Actors and Singers:

Laughter Therapy can be very beneficial for singers and actors. Increased lung capacity and exercise of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles will help to gain a better control over speech. Another benefit would be enhanced self-confidence and reduced stage fright due to an increase in the body’s relaxation level, which results from laughter.

Makes You Look Younger: People do exercise for all the muscles of the body, but there is no regular exercise designed for facial muscles except in Yoga. Laughter is an excellent exercise for your facial muscles. It tones up the muscles of the face and improves facial expressions. When you laugh, your face becomes red due to an increase in blood supply, which nourishes the facial skin and makes it glow. Laughing people look more cheerful and attractive. By squeezing the tear glands through laughter, it moistens the eyes adding a little sparkle to them. Laughter exercises the abdominal muscles and helps to improve muscle tone of those with pot bellies.

Interpersonal Relationships: Laughter brings people together and improves interpersonal relationships. All the members of a Laughter Club meet each other with open minds and they care for each other. You will get a chance to interact with a number of people with a positive frame of mind. Today, members of different Laughter Clubs are like family members. They know each other well; they share their griefs and sorrows. They share their joyful moments too, by meeting each other, going out for picnics etc. They organize health workshops, yoga camps and naturopathy seminars from time to time. People from various walks of life come together and greet each other with smiling faces.

Self Confidence Through Laughter: When you are laughing in a group at a public place with your arms up towards the sky, it removes your inhibitions and over a period of time you become a more sociable, unreserved and outgoing person. Admittedly, some people are initially a bit reluctant to join the laughter group, in spite of a strong inclination towards doing so, for fear of appearing absurd to onlookers. However, this is a passing phase and the very decision to join a Laughter Club opens your mind. Gradually, it also adds to your self confidence. It will also help to develop your personality and leadership qualities. 
In a Laughter Club, many members are encouraged to conduct  sessions. People who were not able to speak a word in public, often become very good public speakers. The Laughter Club of Johnson Garden (Mulund) has produced more than thirty anchor persons. With the passage of time, you will observe a transformation in your personality. You develop a more positive attitude towards life. Minor setbacks or irritants in everyday life no longer cause a serious disturbance, and you learn to deal with them much more effectively.

Social Benefits of Laughter: Ongoing research shows that people suffering from depression are more prone to many illnesses like high blood pressure, heart attacks and cancer. Depression also affects the immune system adversely. Common causes of depression are social isolation and a diminishing family value system. These are much more in western countries but are now slowly affecting the east also. Laughter Clubs have helped many people to get rid of their antidepressant pills in a short period of time. The magic which has worked wonders is the friendship and brotherhood gained from Laughter Clubs. Laughter Clubs are fast developing into close-knit communities. With the spread of Laughter Clubs in every locality, each club has taken the shape of a small community, wherein its members experience a sense of affiliation and belonging to the group. Clubs are turning into  large “Laughing Families”.

info: Jan Thygesen Poulsen
tel.: +45 35 38 45 42