There’s nothing funny about being diagnosed with cancer, your dad falling to his death from a third-floor window 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 way back to mental, physical and financial health!
I implemented a Stress Management Program through Laughter Therapy. What is Laughter Therapy? Laughter Therapy is a form of eustress – or beneficial stress – that releases bad and distressful emotions that cause harmful chemical effects on the body. Laughter Therapy is like any other form of aerobic exercise; that is why your stomach sometimes feels sore after a good belly laugh.
The Two Stages of Laughter Therapy
1) Laughter Exercises – These break down into two phases. 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 when laughing. Laughing can lower your blood pressure, increase vascular flow, and boost the immune system. It gives the diaphragm, abdominal and facial muscles a complete workout. Some people, depending on how they laugh, may even engage their arm, leg, and back muscles.
2) Laughter Meditation – Laughter also releases endorphins in the brain; these are our bodies’ natural pain killers. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that attach to the same receptors in our brains as 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 while 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 branch of Laughing Clubs International in March of 1995. Within a year, 80 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 while still others say it has helped to get out of the house, and meet people.
In fact, I was so impressed with Dr. Kataria’ and his work that I personally invited him to Chicago for a speaking and press tour. I then decided to start my own Laughter Club, The Chicago Live Life Laughing Laughter Club, so I could receive monthly doses of laughter.
Do we laugh because we are happy or are we happy because we laugh? Both 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, as Kataria says.
Maybe there really is something to the old sayings that laughter is the best medicine and a laugh a day keeps the doctor away!
About Doug Dvorak: Doug Dvorak is a motivational keynote speaker who is one of the most well-traveled working today. Dvorak is a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) and a graduate of Flagler College in Florida, as well as a member of several prestigious speaker organizations. To learn more about Doug and his workshops, visit his site online DougDvorak.com or contact him directly at 847-241-4860.