ROFL, LMAO, LOL are a few modern abbreviations used to express laughter. You must be aware of these if you chat on social networking sites or text. But have you ever thought that laughter could be the best medicine? It can actually release your stress and help increase your blood circulation? I had heard about these facts but never witnessed it in person till I got a chance to actually face it.
Every morning, I step out for a jog and see this group of senior citizens laughing away merrily, for no particular reason, without any bounds, without caring about what people think of them.., or is it without a reason? Before leaving, I always used to think to myself that today I will definitely ask them why they stand and laugh for a whole hour every day, but somehow I never had the heart to interrupt their merry time.
This one fine day, the senior ladies were again working at their laugh mystery and over the weeks, gradually I had bucked up the courage to ask them why they laughed in so many different ways instead of exercising early morning.
A sweet lady who seemed to be the one to start this club in our society saw me watching, intrigued, and called me over while I was jogging and asked what I did when I was really happy. I easily said, I smile and laugh ma'am. She then asked me if I would like to join their session since they were anyway short on people that day. Shyly, I agreed.
We began the session with gentle deep breathing and stretches. Then we were told to open our hands towards sky and make laughing sounds like Ha-Ha and He-He.
Moving on, we were told to think of a recent happy or humorous memory that would actually make us laugh out loud and so we did. There was a condition though, that we had to raise our arms above our heads each time we laughed. I didn't know what to think of, I was new to this and not exactly in the mood.
So I just stood there wondering what others were thinking of when an old man burst out laughing. And the next thing I knew they all went popping like balloons one after the other, laughing in different ways. I felt like a social outcast so just to fit in, I started laughing. It felt weird at first but seeing them this way, I started to enjoy too, and gradually, it became genuine.
Laughter therapy is also known by the names Laughter Yoga, Humour Therapy, Hasyayoga and is increasingly becoming popular with middle-aged people and senior citizens. Apart from lifting one's mood, it has a lot of medical benefits as well. Laughing is the finest and one of the most economical stress-busters. It reduces levels of stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol and boosts levels of endorphins, the body's natural pain-killers.
According to a research by Stanford University, Laughter increases white blood cell activity and boosts the immune system. It improves one's health and helps a person with terminal illness like cancer heal faster. Laughing is like an aerobic exercise. Dr. William Fry from Stanford says 1 minute of laughter is equal to 10 minutes on the rowing machine. It stimulates the heart and blood circulation. There's no medicine that gives such instantaneous results.
After 15 minutes of mindless laughter in the morning, my new friends from the Laughter group feel fresh all day! Those who were on anti-depressant pills and tranquilizers now don't need them; they sleep better and live every new day to the fullest with new hopes. Laughter is suited for sedentary people, those who are confined to a bed or wheelchair too. The reason for the sense of well-being is that you inhale more oxygen while laughing. I was lucky enough to experience yet another laughter session which was not just mindless laughing but for a cause.
On 19.05.2012, a laughter therapy workshop was organized by a non-profitable organisation called ‘Society for Advance Study in Rehabilitation' that works for mentally challenged children along with Delhi Laughter Club. Mrs Neelam Wadhera, the joint secretary of the laughter club addressed the occasion and her selfless words touched and moved all hearts. She says “Their movement is non religious, non racial and non-profitable, everyone can celebrate it, and laughter unites people through unconditional love, happiness and smiles”
As her words continued, ruminating over what I just heard I realised that even today such people do exist who choose other's happiness over theirs.
The session comprised of special children and their parents, helping them were therapists, working professionals and teachers. Initially parents were a bit apprehensive because it was the first attempt for a few of them, myriads of questions were running in their minds like “Will the group have patience to deal with the special children?” “Are they ready for any kind of unusual responses?” Their anxiety could be seen clearly on their faces. The children partook in the session generously.
We must appreciate the work of The Delhi laughter club members who made the kids roll in the aisle through series of exercises such as Chinese laughter, punjabi laughter, soup laughter, self laughter, self praise laughter. The students also drew smiley and joined in the art and craft work.
The best part was self appreciation and motivating others by saying “Very Good, Very Good Very Good” to everyone else around. These activities were to simulate their energy.
The visiting Laughatarians had smart ways to intermingle Laughter with deep breathing exercises. The Participants were blown away with those activities and had so much fun that they couldn't resist but laugh artlessly. The laughter activities were non-technical and easy that even young children below 10 years of age won't face any sort of problem understanding it; they were as effortless as answering the telephone, eating or riding a cycle.
All actions were accompanied by sounds such as Ho-Ho-Ha-Ha-Ha, Ho-Ho-Ha-Ha-Ha. The session proved to be a play, a comedy, a singing laughing riot, where no one wanted to halt and continue perpetually. Everyone enjoyed thoroughly. The climax compressed of more positive and less stressed people. The two hour long activity brought tears of joy in everyone's eyes.
For parents and teachers it was a re-energizer, a pain reliever, mood lifter and a stress buster. The after effect of the session was the undying positive feeling, which is very important for parents to gain strength as they are the ones who have to cope up with their children's disability. The riotous laugh was the impact of the session which relieved the children, their care takers and the attendants.
I could see the success of this session when I observed that earlier students and parents sat on their respective chairs and near the end; they left them and started dancing with laughter.
One may ask, “Why you would do Laughter Yoga with a group of people with mental retardation, some of whom in wheelchairs and many of whom are fairly unresponsive.” Well, the session encompasses of yoga movements, laughter and vocalized sounds that give children an ideal exercise. Most of the exercises are done while sitting with the occasional exercise for those who can walk around slowly.
Secondly, the movements are exaggerated with facial expressions, making them great connection tools between participants and the professionals. Thirdly, no long soliloquies are needed; just a “ho ho” if you can manage it. In addition, there is no need to remember anything no objects, no memories, no long complicated strings of instructions, no reading. The actions only need to be mimicked which make everyone giggle and have fun… So, why not join in?
We must thank the visiting Laughter Team which comprised of Neelam Wadhera (General Secretary), Anu Sahni, Durga Dass, Davinder Gupta (Treasurer), Rajeev Narang (Coordinator), Anju, Vimal Gupta, Anushka and others.
All too soon, our session ended and everyone dispersed. And all I could do was, stand there, all my woes forgotten, happy for no particular reason, fresh and looking forward to the day with a very welcoming attitude, admiring the laughter that made it so special and did that for all those in the group.
Laughter indeed is the best medicine. Even if it can't rid you of your ailments, it does play a major role in helping you heal faster. Laughter is for everyone! You can go and simply join in. If all, people will only welcome you! Crack a joke, get others to laugh and there you get yourself a tepid conversation and new friends. It is infectious, painless, enjoyable and there are absolutely no side effects or allergies!