Do you remember as a child being on the playground and laughing for no reason? The next time you go past an elementary school playground, watch in amazement as the children swing or climb on the monkey bars. Children laugh 300 times a day; whereas adults only 15. As a child we weren’t often praised for being happy. We were often asked what made us cry but not what made us laugh.
Twenty years ago, Dr. Kataria, an Indian pediatrician, was writing a article on laughter. After some research, he discovered that modern scientific studies showed that laughter was beneficial to the human body. He was particularly impressed by Norman Counsins’ story in Anatomy of an Illness.
Cousins, a well-known American journalist, described the power of the mind on the body when he experienced a severe degenerative disease of the connective tissues in the 1960s. When his condition as not improving, he gave up all medications except a massive amount of vitamin C and checked out of the hospital. He rented a hotel room and watched his favorite comedy shows such as Candid Camera and the Marx Brothers. He hired a nurse to read funny stories to him. He reported that 10 minutes of laughter gave him two hours of drug free pain relief. It wasn’t long before his symptoms went away and he moved back home.
“A merry heart doeth good like medicine” Proverbs 17:22.
Dr. Kataria wanted to try out Cousin’s ideas about laughter and invited a handful of people to meet at a near by park in Mumbai. They brought jokes to tell. The gathering grew but the jokes dried up so he suggested that people laugh for no reason. People did not have to feel happy to laugh. The pretend laughter turned into real laughter. It was contagious. The crowds grew. They laughed for no reason.
Kataria and his wife who was a yoga teacher began Laughter Yoga which has spread to over 6,000 laughter yoga clubs in over 60 countries. It includes deep breathing, stretching as well as laughing exercises. Perhaps you can find a Laughter Yoga group in your neighborhood.
Laughter provides benefits to both our physical and mental health.
*It relaxes our whole body. A good hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress for up to 45 minutes.
*Laughter boosts the immune system and triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel good chemicals.
*Laughter protects the heart. It improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow.
It often is said that we don’t stop laughing because we grow old: we grow old because we stop laughing.
Dr. Kataria believes that 15 minutes of laughter in the morning keeps us fresh throughout the day. So, tomorrow morning while brushing your teeth, look into the mirror and laugh. Now, I’m sure that some of us don’t feel like laughing when we look into the mirror in the morning. And maybe for some of us we can’t help laughing. It takes some willingness to loose our sense of control and laugh for no reason. It will be well worth it.
Tonight when you go to bed count how many times you have laughed through out the day. Think of those times when you could have laughed but didn’t. Celebrate yourself for the times you remembered to laugh. Commit yourself to being a little silly
“I am thankful for laughter except when milk comes out of my nose.” Woody Allen
(This quote is really gross…but fun.)