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Laughing Matters

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According to Dr. Billy Strean, professor of physical education at the University of Alberta and certified laughter coach, 'When you laugh, your brain chemistry changes and everything starts to work the way it's supposed to.

According to Dr. Billy Strean, professor of physical education at the University of Alberta and certified laughter coach, "When you laugh, your brain chemistry changes and everything starts to work the way it's supposed to."

It's easy to add more laughter to your life. Go ahead, check it out. Look in a mirror. Start laughing. Let yourself go.

Now how do you feel? I tried it, and after I stopped coughing, I felt more relaxed in the chest area and more focused on writing this article.

What Laughter Research Tells Us

Intuitively you know that laughing is good for your health. You have felt the benefits. It might surprise you to learn that there is scientific evidence to prove that laughing improves health. Laughing has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, increase muscle power, enhance learning, and boost immunity. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins. With endorphins flowing in our bodies we are simply healthier and happier, and there are no side effects. Laughing every day will improve your health, much like exercising.

Studies with hundred of adults established a direct correlation between happiness and humour. The ability to laugh, whether at life itself or at a good joke, is a source of satisfaction. Those who enjoy silly humour are one-third more likely to be happy than those who do not.

Laughter and Health Care

Do you know how widely laughter is used to improve health? Laughter has many clinical benefits that include positive physiological changes and an overall sense of well-being.

Patients at Duke University's Comprehensive Cancer Center have been learning about the benefits of laughter since 1976. By giving patients opportunities to create, laugh, and play, Duke's Oncology Recreation Therapy Program matches medical care with music, games, arts and crafts, and laughter. Laughter puts patients in a more positive frame of mind about their situation and treatment, and it helps them combat fear, fatigue, nausea, and sleeplessness.

The first documented case of laughter improving health occurred in 1964 when Norman Cousins published Anatomy of an Illness. The New England Journal of Medicine published his findings in 1979, and lent credence to his discovery. Given a one in 500 chance of recovery from spondylitis, a painful disease causing the disintegration of the spinal connective tissue, Cousins decided to self-medicate with humour. He learned that 15 minutes of hearty laughter produced two hours of pain-free sleep for him.

Natural Humour

Naturopath Avah Sparks explains, "In my work I bring humour to the tragedy of life. I help people laugh at their own humanity, their imperfections. When people embrace their own imperfections they let go of the need to protect their image. Life's more fun. People are healthier."

Sparks says that humour tiptoes into her work. "I don't use humour humour uses me," she explains. "It's the difference between using the language and learning the grammar." The ability to laugh at a situation can foster a positive and hopeful attitude. Humour gives us a sense of perspective on our problems. Laughter releases uncomfortable emotions that make us sick and prepares us to live naturally healthy lives.

Laughter Clubs

You can learn more about the benefits of laughter by attending a meeting of a laughter club. Susan Barker, certified laughter leader, hypnotherapist, and personal coach, explains, "Once you have experienced a laugh-in with a laughter leader you will want more." Barker adds, "Once you have the hang of it you can laugh whenever you want." You can also simulate the benefits of laughter without laughing. "A few nights ago," she marvels, "I woke up with a pain down one leg. I imagined myself laughing and the pain went away completely, instantly, and permanently."

Laughter on the Web

There are many laughter resources on the web. Find your local laughter club at laughteryoga.org. Discover plenty of good information and resources for laughter at worldlaughtertour.com. At jesthealth.com you will find an extensive list of research resources for humour associations and publications, and other resources when you need a laugh.

It's Your Turn

Research points clearly to the beneficial effects of laughter. There are plenty of opportunities to add more laughter to your life. You care about your health. Go ahead, laugh your head off. And be healthier.

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