To anyone passing the NYCC office on Mondays at noon, the scene looks and sounds, well, hysterical. It has long been known that laughter is the best medicine, but now a revolutionary method of laughter exercise, Laughing Yoga, has arrived with master art therapist Jonny Zemmol of The Yellow Door. Zemmol, recently completed training in a systematic method of giggling and guffawing that helps reduce stress, improve attitudes, and provide a great moderate aerobic workout. One minute of hearty laughing is equivalent to ten minutes on an exercise treadmill.
In this method of laughter exercise, cancer patients, care givers and staff members join the Laughter Group, and participate in a routine of chuckles and chortles designed to make anyone feel better without the aid of jokes. By the time the session is over, the participants are weak from giggling. They’ve also used laughter to beat stress.
A physician, Dr. Madan Kataria, originated the laughter club idea in 1995 in India. The method, which borrows some ideas from yoga, was introduced to the United States by The World Laughter Tour, Inc. It is catching on rapidly, and has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, CBS Evening News, and in many other mainstream and health publications. Zemmol now joins dozens of other Certified Laughter Leaders across the country who are showing Americans how to laugh their way to health.
Ongoing research among the more than 600 laughter clubs now active throughout the United States points to the method’s capacity for reducing stress and diminishing social isolation while improving self-confidence and general sense of well-being. Physician, Lee Berk, at Loma Linda University in California, reports strong evidence of laughter's role in boosting the immune system. It is therefore likely to aid in preventing some illnesses altogether. William Fry, MD, of Stanford University states, “From a physical standpoint, we know that laughter conditions the heart muscle, exercises the lungs and diaphragm, and even increases adrenaline and blood flow to the brain.”
Done regularly, laughter can boost the immune system, which is critically important to cancer patients. In two different studies, Dr. Berk discovered that laughter increased the activity of natural "killer" cells, which can fight infection. And laughter may also help fight heart disease. In a recent study of 300 adults, Dr. Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at University of Maryland Medical Center, asked each participant how he or she would react to certain social situations, such as having a drink spilled on them. Those with heart disease were 40% less likely to laugh and see humor in those situations than the healthy participants.
Whether someone is battling an illness or just the pressures of everyday life, laughter brings us into the moment, and that is a moment of joy, love and hope.
How To Put Laughter Into Your Life
We can all use a little more cheer in our day. Try the following:
Force Yourself to Laugh. Look into the mirror and vow to make the person looking back at you laugh. Even if it is by force, you still get the health benefits.
Learn to Relax. Take a deep breath and say, “I’m calm and relaxed.” Breathe out and smile. Within 3- to 60 seconds, you should experience a pleasant feeling.
Remember Funny Moments. If there’s something that makes you laugh, put it in your environment so you’re reminded regularly of that laughing moment.
Be Around People Who Laugh. Laughter is contagious.
Make Others Laugh. A prop, such as a silly tie, can make others laugh, which in turn, will make you laugh.
Learn A New Joke. A quick entry on a search engine like Google can local several Internet joke lists or go to www.humormatters.com.