Laughter: the Best Medicine

by Elizabeth Bloom, founder of Elizabeth Essentials

May is synonymous with Mother’s Day. The very thought brings the words nurturing, nourishing, caring and unconditional love to mind. That is a lot of responsibility! I remind myself daily that “filling up the well” is a necessity. As nurturing caregivers, we cannot give unconditionally and forever without taking care of ourselves first.

In the late ‘70s I studied various meditations with numerous Spiritual Teachers in India. One that I’d like to share with you today has had many incarnations throughout the years and is as powerful now as it first was back then. It’s called the Laughing Meditation. It is one of the most precious tools in my arsenal. It doesn’t cost anything, you don’t have to be certified to practice it, and you don’t have to go to a practitioner. It’s FREE!

Upon waking in the morning, sit up in bed and laugh for 5 minutes continuously. If you have a mirror handy, it’s useful to look into it while doing the exercise. In the beginning you will have to force yourself, but with practice it will come automatically.

The act of laughing stimulates the release of a group of hormones called catecholamines, which in turn release the happy juice – endorphins. With endorphins surging through our bloodstream, we’re more apt to feel happy and relaxed. Each laugh relieves stress, reduces anxiety, and increases our stores of personal energy. All of these psychological and physiological results are wonderful to cope with illness, a hospital stay, or even a cranky coworker.

Much research has been done on this phenomenon and several businesses sprung up out of its existence. That could be because laughter has been called internal jogging, and it may confer all the psychological benefits of a good workout.

Norman Cousins (1915 – 1990) was an American political journalist, author, professor, and world peace advocate. He served as Adjunct Professor of Medical Humanities for the University of California, Los Angeles, where he researched the biochemistry of human emotions. Cousins long believed emotions were the key to human beings’ success in fighting illness. It was a belief he maintained even as he battled heart disease and arthritis.

After being told that he had little chance of surviving, Cousins developed a recovery program incorporating mega doses of Vitamin C, along with a positive attitude, love, faith, hope, and laughter.

“I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.” said Cousins.

In 1995, Dr. Madan Kataria, an Indian physician, was researching an article for his medical magazine. So impressed by Norman Cousins’ book Anatomy of an Illness, he was inspired to found Laughter Yoga. Laughter Yoga is now practiced in schools, prisons, homes for senior citizens, offices, and hospitals. Today, there are more than 6,000 “laughter clubs” in 60 countries.

Studies have found that while laughter isn’t necessarily the best medicine, it’s pretty darn good. For example, a study conducted at UCLA found that watching funny shows increased children’s tolerance for pain, which could be helpful when tiny patients have to undergo big procedures. At the University of Maryland, researchers found that groups that watched humorous films experienced an increase in blood flow compared to groups that watched downers.

Researchers at Texas A&M University found that humor leads to increased hopefulness. The researchers believe that laughter can help fight negative thoughts in the brain, and with an increase of positive emotions, people begin to see a way out of their misery. Free from the shackles of negativity, people begin to see how to form a plan of attack to deal with the given situation.

I trust this meditation will assist you in discovering the true potential that lies in all of us for inner peace and immense joy. I encourage you to practice regularly for at least one month to reap the full benefits. Thereafter, I believe you will want to continue because of the positive affects you have discovered. The power to heal lies within all of us.

Elizabeth Bloom, DHI, DI Hom, is founder of Elizabeth Essentials. Her Serene collection can be found at Marlene’s Market & Deli and offers therapeutic blends of essential oils that help ease stress and replenish wellness. She can be reached at elizabethessentials.com or by calling 888.575.0272.