Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine

by Jodi Ritsch

As a physician board certified in family medicine as well as integrative holistic medicine, I often meet people that are STRESSED. Whether life is handing them a series of challenges or they have a natural disposition of viewing the glass as half empty, stress often times affects their health as well as relationships. What if there were a simple, inexpensive drug that could counteract the bad effects of stress? Would it sell like hot cakes? Would people visit me at The Joyful Doc Clinic in Menomonie just to try the prescription? I bet they would. And what if this miracle drug could lower blood pressure, increase immunity, decrease stress hormones like cortisol, and decrease pain with the body’s own endorphins? I bet they would pay almost any price for it.

The great news is the miracle is here! It is readily available to everyone and it is FREE. The miracle is laughter. There are a few catches to obtaining all the health benefits. Consistent laughter, especially deep belly laughing for over twenty minutes, has been shown to provide many benefits. We can learn quite a bit from our toddlers and pre-schoolers who laugh much more regularly than adults. Fortunately, fake laughter has similar benefits to real laughter. So even if you have to fake it at first, you will benefit and often transition to real giggles.

Dr. Kataria, the founder of Laughter Yoga, was researching the benefits of laughter in 1995 and decided to gather a small group in Mumbai Park to practice laughing. Laughter Yoga certified leaders now run over 7,000 Laughter Yoga Clubs in more than sixty-five countries.

I personally have always enjoyed laughing, so when given the opportunity to train as a leader of Laughter Yoga at the National Wellness Conference in 2012, I jumped for joy. Since that time, I have laughed with kids at after school programs, healthcare workers, government employees, Rotarians, and retirees. If you can laugh and you can breathe, you can do Laughter Yoga. And believe it or not, the more you act silly and laugh, the more resilient you become. It is easier to laugh when something throws you a curve ball in life. Life in general becomes less of a chore and more joy filled.

Laughter yoga sessions begin with a brief introduction and then the group moves on to childlike playfulness, no comedy or jokes required. After mingling in the group with different laughter activities, the serious laughter begins during the “laughter free for all.” This is when all the joyful chemistry from laughter really amps up. The final stage is a guided relaxation time to really feel the bliss created. All that fun in roughly thirty minutes.

It is very hard to stay angry or upset when you look someone in the eye and laugh together. Help spread this humorous world peace movement. With the laughing baby and animal snippets on YouTube or fun photos on Pinterest/Instagram/Facebook, you can literally start laughing this minute. Makes me chuckle just thinking about it.

You are invited to join Jodi Ritsch, MD, for Laughter Yoga on any Wednesday from noon to 12:30 at The Center (3701 Highway 12 in Eau Claire.) She also is available for mindful change life coaching at www.lifebydesignec.com or medical appointments at www.joyfuldoc.com.

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