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Laugh your way to health

Laughter’s a great, natural therapy, available without prescription, in every corner of the world. Today is Let’s Laugh Day. Gayatri Pagdi raises a toast.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 19, 2009 17:27 IST
Gayatri Pagdi

Laughter’s a great, natural therapy, available without prescription, in every corner of the world. It triggers the release of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that reduce pain and anxiety, and enhance the immune system.

The Journal of the American Medical Association notes the role of laughter in decreasing stress related hormones: “A humour therapy programme can increase the quality of life for patients with chronic problems. Laughter has an immediate symptom-relieving effect for patients.”

Laughter is the best medicine
Laughter is good exercise. Laughing out loud is known to enhance respiration and combat carbon dioxide levels in the blood. Some researchers suggest that by laughing we provide a good massage to our internal organs.

This is, in part, some compensation for the natural inner rubbing we lost when we, as early humans, attained the erect posture! Writes William Fry, a laughter researcher, “Mirth, in contrast to many other emotions, provides physical exercise.” Remember, how your sides ached the last time you laughed real hard? When we laugh, the muscles in the face, arms, legs and stomach, get a mini-work-out, and so do the diaphragm, thorax, the circulatory and the endocrine systems.

Word of caution
Experts say no to laughter therapy under certain conditions. They suggest that patients with hernia, advanced piles, eye complications, anginal (chest) pain, and those who have just undergone major surgery, should not venture into laughter therapy without the advice of a doctor.