What is Humor Therapy?
Time to Laugh and Heal!
Have you ever heard of laughter yoga? It is all part of the rapidly growing field of alternative therapies. Laughter yoga was created over 15 years ago by Dr. Madan
Kataria, a doctor from Mumbai, India. In fact, get ready for 'World Laughter Day'
on May 10, 2010. * See below in the section about 'Laughter Clubs' for more information.
We've probably all heard the saying "Laughter is the Best Medicine" or a variation thereof. Documentation has shown that a good belly laugh makes us feel better. Yet, there is no reference to humor and its healing powers in medical training manuals. But humor therapy does exist and continues to grow!
One good thing about humor therapy is that it is free and we all have access to it. But ask yourself this: "Have I had a good belly laugh today?" Surprisingly, your answer may be 'no.' In fact, laughter seems to be so far removed from our lives that there are therapies and a number of websites that are designed to help teach us the power of laughter. Humor therapy is now often used in hospital settings and other health care facilities because of its proven healing benefits. The very idea that humor can heal continues to grow as a therapy.
Following are some questions you may be asking yourself;:
Has the power of laughter ever been documented?
The case of Norman Cousins (a political journalist) has been documented by the New England Journal of Medicine. A 1979 study showed how laughter could help reverse a serious illness. Norman Cousins had a degenerative disease known as ankylosing spondylitis, which is the painful disintegration of the connective tissues in the spine. He created his own humor therapy and discovered that 15 minutes of laughter offered the benefit of providing nearly two hours of pain-free sleep.
How is that possible?
What laughter does is release endorphins. Endorphins are the body's own natural pain killers. Laughter has also been found to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and reduce stress hormones. Further, a good hearty laugh is thought to act as a form of exercise because of its benefits towards cardiac conditioning.
THERAPIES THAT ARE PRESENTLY AVAILABLE:
*What is a Laughter Club?
Started on March 13, 1995, by Dr. Kataria of India, Laughter Yoga is a worldwide phenomenon with more than 6000 Social Laughter Clubs in 60 countries. It combines Unconditional Laughter with Yogic Breathing (Pranayama). It is based on the scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between real or fake laughter - the physiological and psychological benefits are the same. Membership is free. There is so much on this website, I think a visit is worthwhile. For more information visit: laughteryoga.org/
Note: This may take a bit of work - this idea of just laughing out loud by yourself. But I find that if I just plaster a smile on my face - for no reason - it instantly makes me feel better. Then the idea of me sitting here right now writing this hub with a big smile on my face - well, that makes me laugh.
What is Clown Care?
Clown Care was created by the Big Apple Circus here in New York City. It is known as their signature community outreach program. The program was created in 1986 by Michael Christensen to provide the healing power of humor in hospital (and other) settings - the objective is to get children to laugh. Based in a NYC hospital, the program now brings the classical circus to 18 pediatric facilities in the U. S. - in one year the clown doctors have made nearly 250,000 visits to children undergoing treatment. For more information visit: bigapplecircus.org/community/clown-care.aspx
What is the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH)?
The AATH is a large organization in its 30th year of operation. It is an international organization made up of professionals who incorporate humor into their daily lives. Yes, they are committed to providing humor and laughter - as well as studying and researching it. There is even a "Humor Academy" course certification program. The AATH has also created an official definition of "Therapeutic Humor" which is found on their website. For their mission statement and a very interesting read that even made me laugh - just the thought of such an organization - please visit; aath.org
Other organizations with websites:
rxlaughter.org - This organization develops and implements projects examining the health benefits of entertainment to help alleviate the trauma of serious illnesses. They work in cancer support groups, mental health facilities, nursing homes and many other types of care facilities.
cancerclub.com - The Cancer Club has been created to help and inspire anyone who is dealing with cancer. They even have award-winning cartoons which were quite funny. You'll find helpful articles, a club store, a prayer list, inspiring words and and helpful links.
Are you finding things to laugh about?
The fun thing about laughter is that we seem to all have that particular friend that makes us laugh hard - for no reason. I have a friend - we seldom see each other (she is a workaholic) but when we get together at a coffee shop and look at each other...we just start laughing - the kind of laughter that brings tears. Why? Maybe because we have had so many good laughable experiences together in past years to recall. Or maybe it's because we were both complaining in a coffee shop some time ago, about certain stressful things, and when we voiced them - they sounded sooo ridiculous out loud. We could only laugh. Just thinking about her - makes me laugh. And I know when I see her in a coffee shop we will laugh with tears - and the whole coffee shop will start smiling. It always happens. Two clowns in flip flops.
Do you have people that make you laugh? Sometimes it is family because we grow up and around the same sense of humor. Sometimes recalling some incidents can make you laugh. For example - my son makes me laugh out loud and when I laugh he laughs. And one fine day he was in my house talking non-stop (he was maybe 35 at the time - so not a child), two hours later he was still talking and then the ultimate horror - he decided to get up...and started acting out the things he was saying - it was all too much! I told him to get his coat...just get his coat...and just get out! He left laughing. What would possess a grown man to act out what he is saying?
I also work as a substitute teacher sometimes and honestly, any student I work with (from K-12) makes me laugh. Even better, I can make fun of them - and they laugh. Laughter is always contagious. Children are naturally hilarious. My neighbor has a daughter who is now 2 - and she was born with a glowing smile - and is also a natural comedian. Just thinking about her makes me laugh.
And Elders - something happens when we get older. Perhaps we realize that laughter does really feel good and we enjoy sharing it. Or perhaps we know we can get away with saying anything. I know some hilarious older people. My all time favorite comedian was Moms Mabley - an older (she was probably near 70 years of age) woman who got on stage way back in the 60's - and said anything she felt like saying. Her favorite topic was the love of young men. In fact, she said "The only thing an old man can do for me is introduce me to a young man" - she made fun of aging. She made fun of herself and other elders - and we laughed. She even got raunchy at times - her comedy albums are priceless.
Pets? Pets, if allowed to be who they are - well, dogs can be so goofy and cats just downright wry. I played with a friend's ferret some time ago - who knew they were so funny and hilarious. Even my son and daughter-in-law's 3 boa constrictors and bearded dragon are likely to do funny snake or dragon things. I think animals have an instinct for play and like us more when we laugh.
Hope you find lots of laughter in your life! It's there! One good belly laugh per day - and maybe it will heal what ails us.
See links below for other healing therapies. And for a bit of laughter - a new hubber has written some humor - see "And Now For a Bit of Humor" - stupidity can be fun:
Have you laughed out loud today?
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